The case of the one-day old baby boy who was kidnapped from the National Institute of Child Health (NICH) has generated the kind of finger-pointing that does no one any good. Before anything else, this uncomfortable question should be asked: What motivated a young trainee nurse to steal a child and sell it for Rs40,000 in the first place?
It comes down to poverty and desperation. According to the nurse’s statements to the media, she felt she “did what she had to” suggesting that poverty somehow justifies the stealing of a newborn baby. She said she needed the money to care for her ill mother, run the house and eventually marry. Of course, the nurse’s poverty does not absolve her of responsibility for the crime, but it does illustrate how difficult life has become for the average Pakistani and how those in desperate situations can end up doing all kinds of desperate things. With inflation in the double digits and jobs scarce, more and more people are resorting to chicanery to make ends meet. Whether this means increased theft of mobile phones, or more creative schemes like selling babies, the conclusion is the same: economic uncertainty breeds desperation and desperation ultimately leads to crime. And those who do not resort to crime are no less anxious — this past year alone there have been several cases of men and women committing suicide because of poverty. Acknowledging this situation, hospitals and other institutions that could be the targets of similar crimes must wise up and take measures to protect their patients. Security systems using CCTV, which the police relied on to arrest the culprits in this case, must be used to their maximum advantage. But the public health sector suffers from its own form of poverty too, and one must wonder whether the situation will improve when paltry sums of money are spent on health.
Thankfully, the missing baby has been returned to his mother now, and the nurse and her accomplice are behind bars. But unless the cause of such crimes is addressed, new parents will not be able to rest easy.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 20th, 2011.
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