Wretched mothers deserve better

Wretched mothers deserve better

When does a mother sell her baby? In today's world human beings are legally not for sale anywhere. But even in this country, reports are there ---albeit infrequently---of parting with babies by desperate mothers in exchange for money. The latest such news comes from Tongi, Gazipur. A mother sold her 47-day old son for only Tk 30,000.

Happily, the mother got her baby back courtesy of the local police administration. The police have acted out of the way, in this case for a humanitarian cause, to reunite the baby and mother. This proves that beyond the legal parameter, there are issues that evoke noble feelings even in people in uniform. Thus more than duty, fellow feeling, piety and compassion triumph.

The police came to know of the incident through local people that the woman borrowed a total of Tk 30,000 when she could not work ---as she used to do as a domestic help at a few homes --- during the birth of her son. Her husband is a handicapped person who hardly earns anything for the family of five with another son and daughter elder to the baby. But after parting with the baby, she fell in deep despair and even refused to take food. Motherly affection overpowered her biological needs.

The deputy commissioner of Gazipur metropolis took over the matter and paid the couple of Dohar, who bought the baby, their money back before bringing the little one back to his mother. Certainly the police acted nobly. But the question is, is this the police's duty? Even more fundamental question is, why should a mother have no other way than to part with the greatest possession in this world after 52 years of the country's independence? The country has introduced several social welfare programmes for the vulnerable people. If her husband is a physically retarded person, should he not enjoy some sort of those benefits?

A mother in government service or even working for a forward-looking private organisation during her pregnancy is entitled to five months' leave with all benefits. In some advanced countries, such a mother enjoys additional supports. Domestic helps' job has nominally been recognised as labour. Even if it is recognised duly as a form of labour in the informal sector, there is no guarantee it will be brought under the ambit of anything like government service rules. But this neglected segment needs some kind of financial coverage of their hospital expenses and joblessness during the maternity period. Of course, ideally there should not be such wretched people in any society, least of all in a nation that had earned its liberty at the cost of 3.0 million lives and dishonour of 0.3 million of women; and also had democracy and socialism as two of its constitutional pillars.

Much as the country may have diverted from the course it was supposed to chart in order to establish an equalitarian society, it cannot and should not shirk its responsibility for the underclass. A nation with all its achievements including its graduation to a lower middle-income country ---one that dares plan for universal pension for its citizens, must have a special arrangement for addressing the vulnerabilities of the poor and the marginal. Sure enough, maternity for low-income mothers should be brought under the coverage of free medical care and reasonable financial support. This can as well be made conditional such as entitlement to the benefit for only two-child mothers. It may serve as a nice way of family planning for limiting the population growth. The investment will have far greater returns for families and society.


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