Day-labourer Habil Mia from Rajbari village in Sundarganj upazila of Gaibandha district has been suffering from various ailments for a long time.
But he had to work hard to support a seven-member family.
Down by poverty, Habil and his wife finally decided to sell two of their daughters to arrange money to buy a small plot for the family’s home.
So, they sold their five-month-old daughter at Tk 50,000 and the three-year-old daughter at Tk 5,000. The couple declined to give details.
Habil said he wished to see his baby girls again but did not know where they are.
In the last two years, at least five children have reportedly been sold by their parents in Fulchhari and Sundarganj upazilas of Gaibandha district.
Momena Begum’s case was a little different. She was eight months into pregnancy when her husband died.
The posthumous child was named Mostafa. Momena and her child lived with her mother-in-law Joygun in Fulchhari upazila until her second marriage.
When her new husband refused to accept Mostafa, Momena sold the five-month-old child at Tk 3,000. When Joygun learned about the incident, she started looking for her grandson.
After an exhausting eight-month search, Mostafa was finally located. But the man who had bought him demanded Tk 20,000 from Joygun. She sold her ancestral land and took her grandson back.
Mostafa is one of the very few lucky children who could return home after being sold.
The story of Ashraful Islam, a day-labourer from Dharmapur village of Sundarganj, is almost similar to that of Habil Mia. Ashraful also struggled to make ends meet and sold one of his daughters for Tk 5,000 and another for Tk 15,000 two years ago.
When a child is sold, its identity is changed by the buyer, making it impossible in most cases to trace the child.
Contacted, local Member of Parliament Shamim Haidar Patwari said he was unaware of the sale of children but added that he was unable to do anything about rescuing the children. "It's up to the local administration," he said.
Approached, local Upazila Nirbahi Officer Soleman Ali declined to comment.
Shamim Haidar, however, said there are some areas in the district where poverty has taken a devastating form for various problems, including riverbank erosion.
The government has been planning to provide these people relief materials and taking steps to improve the financial condition of the locality, he said.
Tarapur Union Parishad Chairman Aminul Islam claimed that the wealthy people pay poor couples in advance to buy their children and use them as domestic helps when they grow up.
“There’re many such cases in and around areas along the river,” he said without any further elaboration.
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