ADOPTION —THE INDIAN SCENE TARA ALI BAIG AND C. GOPINATH Adoption of...
ADOPTION —THE INDIAN SCENE
TARA ALI BAIG
AND C. GOPINATH
Adoption of children is not a new pheno-
salvation. On the whole introduction of a
menon in India. It dates back to ancient male child meant strengthening the family
days when children (specially boys) were economically, socially and spiritually.
adopted into families and given the recog-
Hence, boys had a special social significance.
nition of natural children. For instance,
In spite of the fact that adoption was
Shanta, the daughter of King Dashratha well established in Hindu society in the
and elder sister of Sri Rama was adopted past, this was restricted by the caste sys-
by Ramapada, the King of Auga. As tem and the institution of the joint family.
Ramapada had no children and as The hierarchical caste system restricted
Dashratha expected to have more children adoption of children from one caste to
Shanta was given away in adoption. An-
another. Adoptions were thus arranged in
cient Indian texts are replete with such a narrow social perimeter.
instances where a family denied a child
In Hindu society it was conceded that
particularly a male child, resorted to adopt-
the adopted child enjoyed the rights and
ing a son of the nearest kith and kin. In privileges of a natural born child. He was
the prevailing norms of those days three given the protection of a home, economic
types of male children were recognised —
security and could eventually become the
DATTAKA or the adopted son and DASI-
heir to the family property. In stray cases
PUTRA or the illegitimate son, normally where there was competition between the
borne by a concubine (Planning Commis-
legitimate and the adopted son in the mat-
sion, 1968: 4-5).
ter of succession — the legitimate son was
The practice of adoption in ancient times entitled to a larger share.
was not strictly motivated by the natural
The SMRITIS contained rules and con-
desire to have a child as an object of affec-
ditions for valid adoptions but they could
tion or as an act of compassion, but rested not be universally adopted as they prescribed
on certain extensive considerations, of different conditions for different regions and
which the most important were (1) old age different castes. For instance, a bachelor
protection (2) perpetuation of family name or widower could adopt a child, married
and continuance of family lineage (3) secu-
women were not entitled to adopt a child,
rity of the family property and (4) solem-
but in some places like Madras, a 'Devdasi',
nisation of last rites of the father.
a woman of the dancing girl community,
Owing to Brahmanical influence, Hindus could adopt a girl. In Bombay a widow
attached a very special religious significance was permitted to adopt provided prior
to a son, since he ensured of heavenly permission of the husband before his death
bliss to the parents. In order to liberate had been sought or it was in his will. In
one's soul from the bondage of existence South India a widow could adopt either with
it was considered necessary that certain the consent of the husband or with the con-
last rites should be performed by the son. sent of SAPINDAS. In the case of the upper
This custom motivated families to adopt a three castes of Brahmin, Kshatriyas and
son with the aim of achieving spiritual Vaishyas, adoptions were solemnised by
* Mrs. Tara Ali Baig is the President of the Indian Council for Child Welfare and
Dr. (Mrs.) C. Gopinath is the Technical Officer of the Indian Council for Child Welfare.

136
TARA ALI BAIG AND C. GOPINATH
a ceremony known as DATTA HOMAM. Hence, we also have the problem of chil-
The Sudras or lowest caste were not obli-
dren whose parentage is not known. Faced
gated to conform to any ceremony.
with the demands for rehabilitation of a
A significant fact to be noted is that in large section of such children, the need for
all cases the adoption consisted of a sym-
state action became imperative.
bolic ritual of bodily transferring a child
One way in which this huge need was
from one family to the other on mutual met to some extent was through institu-
consent. This practice, backed by religion tionalisation. Children who do not have
and social sanctions continued and in the parents or guardians or have been abandon-
then existing social conditions, nothing ed by their parents or have got lost and
more appeared to be needed. Abandoned also those whose parents are incapable to
and orphaned children did not reach such provide for their accommodation, mainte-
huge proportions as in modern, increasingly nance or upbringing were placed under
urbanised society.
institutional care. Institutional care under
laws passed in 12 States was practically
Urbanisation and the consequent break the only form of care that was available
up of joint families has caused increasing to children along with a few orphanages
suffering and deprivation of children, with-
and private charities.
out parents and families. The order changed
Institutionalisation is however, not a
but there were no new measures to meet panacea for the ills of children. The chil-
the needs brought about by the change. dren need a home and mothering. The day
The religious and philanthrophic institutions in an institution tends to be regimented
which once served as sanctuaries to the and personal wants and needs become group
abandoned were also inadequate.
wants and needs. A child's identity gets
Under the new social order voluntary submerged and he generally remains emo-
action whether individual or collective tionally starved.
became inadequate to meet the increasing
According to the report of the Working
needs, and thus orphaned children in most Group set up by the Planning Commission
cases became abandoned children. Other on policies and programmes for destitute
factors which brought about abandoning children at the time of formulation of the
of children were:
Fourth Development Plan, a conservative
estimate indicated that 0.5 per cent of
(a) the worsening economic conditions Indian children are destitute. This places
of families coupled with no change the number between 1.05 and 1.15 million.
in the breeding patterns of rural and This is more likely to be a conservative
urban families. This is highlighted estimate than otherwise. Unfortunately,
by the 1971 census of India which there has been no study to gauge the true
lists 228 million children under 14 magnitude of the problem. These chilldren
years, of whom 46 million are esti-
are tucked away in institutions with vary-
mated to be below the poverty line; ing standards and run under official and
and
non-official auspices. There is no statistical
(b) the increasing incidence of children information to estimate the number of
born out of wedlock, a phenomenon children's homes in the country. According
which followed as a natural conse-
to available reports received from organi-
quence when an element of permis-
sations, approximately 30,000 children are
siveness emerged in large cities.
under institutions set up under Children's

ADOPTION — T H E INDIAN SCENE
137
Acts, about 55,000 cared for charitable/ where they receive personal care and atten-
religious trusts and private charities and tion and the feel of a home and family
national and international sponsorship
whic
s
h are absent in an orphanage. The
and 20,000 under the institution
schem
s
e which was started by various states
covered under the grant-in-aid pro-
of India provided for paying foster parents
gramme of the Central Social Welfare allowances to cover the maintenance of the
Board. These figures account for about one child under their care. The foster home is
million children, thereby clearly indicating an ordinary household in which the child
a rationale for an extensive study to know is placed for its upbringing for a given
what is the magnitude of this problem. period of time with responsibilities on the
Majority of these institutions do not possess foster parents similar to those of the natural
even the minimum physical facilities, leave parents. This can be a long or short term
alone the congenial atmosphere of love and contract with the foster parents. Such care
security. The financial input in most of the is considered preferable to institutional care
homes is very low. For instance, the homes since it provides a comparatively natural
run under the CSWB grant-in-aid pro-
and secure environment conducive to a
gramme spend on an average of Rs. 22/- per child's physical, emotional and social deve-
child per month on food and Rs. 9/- per lopment.
child on medicine. (This was revealed in
In 1967 a new movement, the SOS Chil-
a survey conducted by the CSWB in 1970). dren's Villages of India based on the In-
(Chhabra, 1973). The financial input though ternational Movement of SOS, was started
an important factor, does not make a home and has now expanded to Maharashtra,
what it should be. In most of our homes, Gujarat, Haryana, Bengal, Jammu and
the children grow up deprived of love and Kashmir and Delhi. Children's villages try
care. A number of them give up the struggle to retrieve a child traumatised by constant
even before they are one year old. The changes from institution to institution by
unfortunate ones who survive the hazards wars and refugee damage, and those who
of first years, grow up prematurely into are abandoned and put them into a perma-
adults. They have no childhood since all nent setting they can call their own home.
that connotes childhood is denied to them. This system depends mostly upon mother
To add to this are the under-paid, untrained love and personal care; a woman abandon-
workers in whose care the children are ed or widowed herself finding a new family
placed. They are selected to the jobs with of nine children of all ages and both sexes
absolutely no concern regarding their apti-
to bring up as her own, who only leave
this home when they marry or can support
tude to work for children. Nor is the worker-
themselves.
children ratio what it should be. The effect
of this on children is deplorable and needs
The whole object of the village complex
immediate intervention. Otherwise we are is to establish a definite identity for the
working contrary to the basic elements of child, yet with every means of belonging
social justice and out of tune with the prin-
to the whole community like any normal
ciples of the declaration of the rights of the child. SOS villages have cottages where
child to which our country is a signatory. the mother and children do their own work,
Another measure taken for rehabilitating have their own kitchen and their small
abandoned and orphaned children was the functions like birthdays and festivals, but
foster care programme. Under this pro-
play games and make friends with the
gramme, children are placed in families children of adjacent cottages while their

138
TARA A L I BAIG AND C. GOPINATH
schooling, marketing, hospital care etc. are parents for boys. On the other hand inci-
in the wider community. The village is a dence of boys coming to orphanages is rare
cluster of friendly homes. In the pilot as compared to girls. Consequently girls
project just outside Delhi, 40 children of remain in orphanages and many families
the Greenfields Children's Village go to remain disappointed. Hesitancy on the part
their own nursery school as there is no bal-
of the parents to take girls springs from vari-
wadi nearby, but all the older 130 children ous reasons. In a society where marriages
go by bus to some of the best schools in are still arranged, parents are afraid that their
Delhi. Despite a bad educational back-
daughters whose parentage is not known
ground, every child passed last year, some may not get married. This, coupled with
with distinction and many in the top ranks the native preference for male children, goes
which only proves the capacity of these against the interest of the girls in orpha-
formerly unwanted children, given love and nages. This is detrimental since prolonged
trust.
stay in orphanages has grave consequences.
As mortality rate in some of the orphanages
Even if we make human improvements
range from 65 per cent to 75 per cent. girls
in our orphanages and even if we introduce
who are left behind either die or are shifted
more and more new social measures to
from one orphanage to another as they
rehabilitate these children, one can hardly
grow up...................
claim that we are doing the optimum for
our abandoned and orphaned children as
An important factor that has influenced
long as they are denied natural homes and the Indian scene in this area is the demand
families. The best of orphanages and insti-
for Indian children by foreign nationals.
tutions and the finest foster homes cannot
The reason for this demand for inter-
give the child what a natural family can country adoption finds its roots in the
offer. Therefore, providing children with drastic social change which the western
families in which they can grow and develop world is undergoing, the result being the
like natural born children has to be con-
decline in the social stigma attached to illegi-
sidered as the most effective instrument of timate children and very few such children
social action for a child deprived of its being abandoned to orphanages. The num-
own family.
bered few who do find themselves homeless
However, unfortunately we do not have gain protection in foster homes. Foster care
proper legislation to make it possible for also enfolds into its mantle the children
children to be placed in adoption. The of homes where poverty, neglect, alcho-
existing legislations for children are not holism or drug addiction has made it neces-
universal in application. The Hindu Adop-
sary. The result is that there are almost
tion and Maintenance Act covers only no children available for bonified parents
Hindu children.
who truly desire to adopt a child. These
parents, therefore, turn to countries like
Other acts like the Children's Act 1960
India where homeless and foundling chil-
of Union Territories and Guardians and
dren abound in ever increasing numbers.
Wards Act of 1890 can only place children
in families on a guardianship basis. Neither
The ICCW has been assisting parents
the parents nor the children have any secu-
(both Indian and foreign) to take orphan
rity since there is no adoption deed signed children under foster care in the absence
and the child does not have any rights like a of an adoption deed. Ninety-nine foreign
natural child. Another factor that is alarm-
families took children under foster care
ing is the preference of most of the Indian between the years 1963-1970. This action

ADOPTION — THE INDIAN SCENE
139
was legalised under section 16(1) of the the parents to select children and contacting
Children's Act 1960. Since year 1970-71, agencies where children are open to
however, hardly any case of foreign parents adoption.
has been processed, as the orphanages in
The Indian Association for Promotion of
Delhi under instruction of the Administra-
Adoption was established in 1970 and has
tion authorities have stopped considering endeavoured to create a social climate for
applications from foreign adoptive parents. the promotion of adoption.
The reason for this action was attributed
In spite of the efforts of the agencies
to the lack of proper supervision and follow concerned with the programme, so little is
up of the children going overseas.
achieved due to the lack of a common code
In fact in all the cases of children placed in adoption. Hence, the future of many an
in families outside the country a regular unwanted and abandoned child lies embedd-
follow up through progress reports
ed in the Adoption of Children Bill 1972.
is maintained. The ICCW, the Indian The Bill is on the anvil and is being widely
Council of Social Welfare and the Associa-
discussed in social work circles and amongst
tion of Promotion of Adoption have con-
the persons who have adopted or wish to
sistently investigated cases of inter country adopt and those who wish to promote the
care of children under the Guardians and interest of the child. The most heartening
Wards Act 1890 and have found every child feature of the Bill is that it seems to create
to be loved, cared for, integrated and want-
a uniform law of adoption applicable to all
ed in the new family. Moreover, communities. Unfortunately, the Govern-
every child adopted abroad comes
ment's decision to enact a secular law of
under the local laws which protect the child. adoption has caused a feeling of resentment
The Ministry of External Affairs reports and disapproval among some of the mino-
that to their knowledge there has been no rity groups of India. The cause of this
case of complaint against foreign adoptive resentment stems from the belief that the
parents.
Bill violates the tenets of their religious
The Indian Council of Social Welfare has beliefs. Such claims have hampered the
been meanwhile assisting parents to take process of the Bill, being enacted by Parlia-
children under the Guardians and Wards ment. Adoption of Children Bills were in-
Act 1890 with a view to ensuring their troduced by members in the Parliament
welfare by streamlining the procedure and (Rajya Sabha) since 1955. The course taken
bringing in an element of professional is given below: —
evaluation of home studies and well-being
of the child. The High Court of Bombay
1955: The first attempt to have a uniform
has already amended its rules to consult
legislation on adoption was made
the ICSW on all cases of guardianships
by Mrs. Jayashree Raiji who in-
that come before it.
troduced to the Lok Sabha the
Among the other Indian agencies which
Adoption of Children Bill 1955.
are responsible for promoting the cause of
She was requested to withdraw
adoption, the All India Women's Conference
the bill by the then Law Minister
and the Indian Association for Promotion
since the Government wanted to
of Adoption need to be mentioned. The
pass the Hindu Adoption and
former is a national organisation working
Maintenance Act first. She was
for the welfare of women and has contri-
assured that the adoption bill will
buted to the cause of adoption by guiding
be reintroduced after passing the

140
TARA A L I BAIG AND C. GOPINATH
Hindu Adoption and Maintenance the Law Minister himself one expected a
Act. However, this did not hap-
speedy passage of the Bill. However, in
pen since Smt. Raiji and the Law 1974 — we were yet uncertain when the Bill
Minister retired from Parliament will be taken for discussion. It is for this
before that.
very purpose that the ICCW constituted an
1965: The Indian Council for Social Adoption Committee along with the Indian
Welfare (then Conference of Council of Social Welfare, All India
Social Work), in collaboration with Women's Conference and the Indian Asso-
other welfare agencies, drafted the ciation for Promotion of Adoption to con-
Adoption of Children Bill which sider at length the various issues involved,
was sent to the Minister of Law especially inter-country adoptions.
and distributed among the mem-
The Committee had various sittings and
bers of Parliament.
submitted a memorandum to the Prime
Minister urging the speedy passage of the
1967: Smt. Tara R. Sathe introduced the Bill.
Adoption of Children Bill 1967
This is the Indian scene today. Till the
to the Rajya Sabha.
Adoption Act comes through the programme
1970: Smt. Mangla Devi Talwar intro-
will be carried out by various agencies,
duced the Adoption of Children under various provisions and with or with-
Bill 1970 to Raja Sabha.
out proper documentation and follow up.
1972: The Minister of Law, Shri H. R. Exploitation of would-be adoptive parents
Gokhale introduced the Adoption also cannot be ruled out. The only redeem-
of Children Bill in 1972.
ing feature is that some children are finding
parents in families within and outside the
When the Bill was introduced by country.
REFERENCES
Chhabra, Rani
"They want Love and Security", Sunday Standard Magazine.
1973
November 25.
The Planning Commis-
Encyclopedia of Social Work, Vol. 1, pages 4-5.
sion, Government of
India
1968