Baby boys 'stolen' from maternity clinic: A doctor in India is accused of replacing the newborn sons of his impoverished patients with aborted foetuses, writes Tim McGirk from Faridabad

THE MURTI Nursing Home had a reputation for being a place where mothers delivered only daughters and stillborn sons, but it had the advantage of being cheap. Pacing outside the surgery where his wife was giving birth, Zamindar Pandit at last heard the sound of a baby crying. 'Are you alright?' Mr Pandit shouted through the bolted door. 'I'm fine,' Jaileshwari, his wife, replied wearily. 'And it's a boy.'

The birth of a boy in India is an occasion for much rejoicing, and Mr Pandit ran back to his hut in Patel Nagar slum, behind the Faridabad Goodyear tyre factory near New Delhi, to collect payment for the clinic and gather his friends. Having a son instead of a daughter would spare Mr Pandit from having to pay a punishing dowry later on. A son would bring dignity and, as he grew, wages. And according to Hindu custom, his son would be there to light Mr Pandit's funeral pyre and ease his soul's departure.

But when Mr Pandit and his friends returned to the clinic last Monday, the doctor, Bhoj Murti, thrust a dead baby into his arms. 'He told me it was stillborn,' said Mr Pandit. 'But the baby seemed dry. Its skin was swollen and puffy.' Then, Mr Pandit unwrapped the cotton cloth around the dead infant and saw that it was the corpse of a baby girl.

Enraged, Mr Pandit left and returned to the Murti clinic with 500 men from his slum, tough Bihari labourers like himself. They surrounded the clinic, smashed the windows with stones and roughed up Dr Murti when he tried to escape by scooter. 'One of the neighbours shouted: 'There] There] On the roof]' The nurse was hiding something - a bundle - inside the water tank,' recounted Mr Pandit. It was his missing newborn son.

Mr Pandit's friend, Ram Audesh, dashed to the roof and rescued the baby from the tank, just seconds before he sank under the water. Dr Murthi, his wife Ram, and a nurse, Ashi, are accused of kidnapping and attempted murder. Evidence suggests that Dr Murti and his wife were snatching newborn babies from their poor and often illiterate patients and selling them for adoption. This gruesome case reveals a strange paradox: that even in an over- populated country such as India, there is an illegal market for adopting children - but only boys are wanted.

S P Srivastav, a programme officer for the Indian Council of Child Welfare, said: 'Most of the children adopted from orphanages in Delhi are boys. The waiting queue is quite long.' Girls are seen as a burden, since parents are obliged to pay a dowry often large enough to deplete the family savings. Among rural Indians, the killing of newborn girls is widespread. And even in the cities, many pregnant women will have an abortion if a sex test determines that the foetus is female.

This practice of weeding out the unborn girls allegedly enabled Dr Murti to contrive his bizarre baby theft. His clinic carried out many illegal abortions, said police, and the doctor is thought to have used a seven-month foetus from a late abortion to switch with Mr Pandit's boy. Yashpal Singhal, Faridabad's senior superintendent of police, claimed: 'They'd even gone to the trouble of sewing the umbilical cord from Jaileshwari's baby to the dead foetus so it would look fresh.'

Sitting under a tree in Patel Nagar slum, six women explained how, when their moment of delivery came, the nursing clinic staff covered their faces in a white gauze so that they could not see the actual birth. After delivery, these women claimed that Dr Murti gave them an injection which made them lose consciousness. Then they were presented with a bill for more than 1,000 rupees ( pounds 20) and a dead baby. 'I heard the crying,' said Munni, 25, who underwent labour in Murti clinic on 6 February. 'But when I came awake afterwards, the doctor-sahib told me that the baby had died inside me. The baby they showed me looked so very old.'

The families of Patel Nagar slum are demanding that police track down their missing sons. But the chances of the babies' return from somewhere in India - or from adoption abroad - are slim.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
sportSo, how closely were you paying attention during 2014?
Arts and Entertainment
Dennis speaks to his French teacher
tvThe Boy in the Dress, TV review
One father who couldn't get One Direction tickets for his daughters phoned in a fake bomb threat and served eight months in a federal prison
people... (and one very unlucky giraffe)
Arts and Entertainment
Joel Edgerton, John Turturro and Christian Bale in Exodus: Gods and Kings
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Arts and Entertainment
The Plaza Theatre in Atlanta, Georgia was one of the 300 US cinemas screening
filmTim Walker settles down to watch the controversial gross-out satire
Arts and Entertainment
Amy Adams and Christoph Waltz in Tim Burton's Big Eyes
film reviewThis is Tim Burton’s most intimate and subtle film for a decade
Life and Style
Mark's crab tarts are just the right size
food + drinkMark Hix cooks up some snacks that pack a punch
Arts and Entertainment
Jack O'Connell stars as Louis Zamperini in Angelina Jolie's Unbroken
film review... even if Jack O'Connell is excellent
Arts and Entertainment
Madonna is not in Twitter's good books after describing her album leak as 'artistic rape and terrorism'
music14 more 'Rebel Heart' tracks leaked including Pharrell Williams collaboration
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executive- City of London, Old Street

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executiv...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: An international organisa...

Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwickshire

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwicksh...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager/Marketing Controller (Financial Services)

£70000 - £75000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager/Marketi...

Day In a Page

A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

Christmas without hope

Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

The 'Black Museum'

After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

Chilly Christmas

Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all