The Child Welfare Committee, Burdwan, West Bengal, has passed interim orders restoring the custody of children, Abhigyan and Aishwarya, to their mother Sagarika Chakraborty.
The children had been released by the Norwegian Child Welfare Services. The NCWS had taken them away from the parents and placed in foster care in Norway in May 2011, but released after diplomatic pressure in May 2012, after 11 months.
The NCWS and the children's parents, Sagarika Chakraborty and Anurup Bhattacharya, had agreed before a Norwegian court that the custody of the children would be with their paternal uncle in India. The children have since May 2011 been living with their grandparents in Kulti, Burdwan, West Bengal.
The NCWS had taken custody of the children as they alleged the parents were unable to take care of them. They claimed that the children were found to lack an emotional connect with their mother, while the father did not have time from his work schedule for the children. The NCWS had said the mother had slapped one child and was not fit to take care of the children.
As the parents have been locked in a dispute with each other, the mother filed for custody of the children before the Child Welfare Committee in Burdwan. The committee in its order today said, "We have found the mother to be fit to take care of the children and their foster carer to have failed in his duties towards the children. The care of Abhigyan and Aishwarya is governed by Indian law by virtue of their residence in India and the agreement under which the children were given in foster care to their paternal uncle. Under Indian law, foster care is a temporary measure with the aim of restoration of foster children to their parents wherever possible."
Since the father is still based in Norway, it strengthened the mother's case for custody. His brother in India, appointed legal guardian of the children, is a 26 year old bachelor.
The committee order further states, "Our findings as to the fitness of the mother and her interaction with the children at visitations arranged by us establish a reasonable basis for giving an opportunity to the children to be re-united with their mother. We are keeping the case open for further review once the children re-commence life with their mother."
Curiously, the local police is not complying with the committee's orders to take the children away from the paternal uncle and hand them over to the parents. A release from the committee said, "We were unable to take charge of the children today for handover to their mother owing to unavailability of police assistance to control an unruly mob that had gathered around the foster home."
Speaking on the phone from Ajay Nand, Commissioner of Police, Asansol, said that it was not his job to take children away from foster care and give them to the mother in Burdwan. "The children have come to India under an agreement in Norway and it would be cheating to now violate that agreement and hand over the children to the mother. Let a competent court and not the child welfare committee give us an order and we'll follow it. Meanwhile, we have referred the case to the state government for further directions."
The mother, Sagarika Chakraborty, however said the child welfare committee had the powers to order the transfer of children under law and that it was their responsibility to make sure the order is complied.