Hyderabad: Child adoption rate in Telangana and Andhra Pradesh has witnessed a steep drop of 51% over the last four years.
As per data tabled in the Lok Sabha on March 31, while 272 children were adopted in united Andhra Pradesh in 2013-14, the number fell to 134 in Telangana in 2016-17 (till March 17).
Experts attribute this drop in domestic adoption rate to multiple reasons ranging from rise in illegal adoptions to a significant increase in number of people opting for modern procedures of childbirth such as in-vitro fertilisation and surrogacy.
“Instances of illegal adoptions have become rampant in the two states. A huge mafia is indulging in selling and buying of babies. This has adversely impacted legal adoption numbers,” said Mamata Raghuveer, child rights activist, adding how there are plenty of instances of infants from poor families being sold off unlawfully.
In 2015, the ministry of women and child development firmed up a set of rules to streamline the process of adoptions. According to the guidelines, prospective adoptive parents (PAPs) have to initially pay a registration charge of 6,000 and make another payment of up to 43,000 once the adoption process is completed. The cost through the illegal means, however, is as low as 5,000.
The tremendous demand for surrogacy and in-vitro fertilisation, especially among urban cash-rich couples, is also impacting the legal adoption numbers. Long waiting periods are too pushing PAPs towards new-age alternatives.
Data shows that the wait period for the over 10,000 applicants from the two states is close to two-three years. “It is primarily because of this that many couples/single women hoping to adopt are turning to in-vitro fertilisation or surrogacy. And this trend is fast spreading among those living in rural areas as well,” said Samit Shekhar, executive director of Kiran Infertility Centre.
Given the depleting numbers, activists call for stricter laws in both the states to enhance legal adoption rate. “There is an urgent need for stronger laws to curb illegal adoptions. Although several police cases have been filed, the conviction rate is extremely low in such cases,” said Achyutha Rao, child rights activist, adding that even the process to adopt a child must be fast-tracked.
While fingers are pointed at laxity in the adoption process, officials from the Telangana women and child development department have a different story to narrate.
“The figures submitted in the Lok Sabha are incorrect as in the last one year there have been more than 300 adoptions in Telangana alone, including international adoptions. Apart from 20 children who were adopted by couples from abroad, rest of them were intra-country adoptions,” said KRS Laxmi Devi, joint director (schemes) of department of women development and child welfare in Telangana.