India Uncut

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Tuesday, August 30, 2005

A bribe to hold your baby

The New York Times reports from Bangalore:
Just as the painful ordeal of childbirth finally ended and Nesam Velankanni waited for a nurse to lay her squalling newborn on her chest, the maternity hospital's ritual of extortion began.

Before she even glimpsed her baby, she said, a nurse whisked the infant away and an attendant demanded a bribe. If you want to see your child, families are told, the price is $12 for a boy and $7 for a girl, a lot of money for slum dwellers scraping by on a dollar a day. The practice is common here in the city, surveys confirm.

Mrs. Velankanni was penniless, and her mother-in-law had to pawn gold earrings that had been a precious marriage gift so she could give the money to the attendant, or ayah. Mrs. Velankanni, a migrant to Bangalore who had been unprepared for the demand, wept in frustration.
Most of us reading this are used to the endemic corruption in India, but I can't help feeling utterly shocked at this story. I can't imagine what goes through the minds of the nurses and attendants who ask a mother for money to allow her to hold her new-born kid. How stone-cold can you be?

(Link via emails, separately, from Abhay Jajoo and Vimalanand Prabhu.)
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