A history of distress sales
Anand ST Das and Poornima Joshi
There is nothing new about people selling children in western Orissa.
According to archaeologist and former king of Khariar, now a part of Nuapada district, JP Singh Deo, because of repeated droughts people have been selling children or or giving them to wealthy land-lords has been common in these parts.
Singh Deo quotes from a report prepared by the government of Orissa in 1940, to substantiate his argument. "The committee during its tour of the sub-division had its attention drawn to a very strange (and cruel, if true) custom existing in this tract, namely selling of children by parents to people needing their service," reads the committee report.
"Prabhas Bose, a pleader of Nuapada, who gave evidence before us said unasked that selling of children by parents was going on and that it was something like slavery," the report adds.
The Sub-Divisional officer, a Mr Palit, told the committee that it was not actual selling but when a certain person needed money, he took advance from a well-off agriculturist and sent his child to serve in the house of that master. "He added that the child could not go away at anytime he liked," the report observes.
The enquiry committee members mentioned that three Congress members appeared before them the next day and their leader volunteered information about secret sale of children by their parents.
The committee was also told that in Bhola village, people sold their children, both boys and girls, like cows and buffaloes to those who could pay for them.