A Fight For Reuniting A Biological Mother And Her Child : Dr. Bharat Vatwani

A Fight For Reuniting A Biological Mother And Her Child : Dr. Bharat Vatwani

Ramon Magsaysay Award Winner Dr. Bharat Vatwani's Battle For Reuniting A Biological Mother and her Child

Mumbai : 13th December, 2020.

The city which fulfils all desires and dreams of lakhs of people is witnessing an unusual story of a Mother Madhavi (name of mother changed to protect her identity)  who is eagerly waiting for reunion with her 2 year old son who is being raised with a foster family who is a famous Bollywood Film Director – Writer.

The case dates back to Pre-covid times when on 16th September, 2019 the women who was mentally ill (based on her behaviour) was spotted by Borivali Railway Police personnel with her newborn child. According to Police, the woman, around age 30, had a baby boy with her who seemed to have been physically beaten by her and had some wounds on his body. So the railway police got the woman admitted to Shraddha Rehabilitation Foundation and the child was taken by the Railway Police and handed over to the Child Welfare Committee (CWC), Mumbai. Despite the law according to Section 21 (2) of the Mental Healthcare Act, 2017,  a child under the age of three years of a woman receiving care, treatment or rehabilitation at a mental health establishment, cannot be separated from her during her stay, unless the treating psychiatrists authorise it, the newborn was separated from his biological mother, before she was brought to the centre.  

Courtesy : Shraddha Rehabilitation Foundation

Madhavi was brought at Karjat Centre of Shraddha Rehabilitation Foundation (an NGO for the mentally ill) , which was founded by Dr. Bharat Vatwani, who is also the 2018 Ramon Magsaysay Award Winner, for his selfless work of rescuing thousands of mentally ill street paupers to treat them and reunite them with their families. Since its begining, Shraddha Foundation has reunited 7,349 mentally ill people with their families.

CWC, through the Family Service Centre (FSC), placed the child in foster care. He was first placed with one family and later, with a rich family.

The Family Service Centre (FSC), on 4th November, 2019, asked the Shraddha Rehabilitation Foundation for an update on the mother's health. She had improved rapidly and the centre gave a medical and psychiatric fitness certificate. They informed FSC that the mother is longing for her child and keeping separated could result in severe depression. "We managed to trace her relatives to Bihar and her relatives also enquired about the child and were willing to come to Mumbai to take both home" said Dr. Bharat Vatwani.

The woman, now recovering from her mental illness, is demanding for her child back. However, the foster family has refused to give him up as due to COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown, a lot of time had passed resulting in the foster family's emotional attachment involved with the child.

Courtsey : Dr. Bharat Vatwani

When the matter was due to come up for hearing before CWC members, the director made some powerful politicians ring them up constantly, hoping that they would give a ruling in his favour for getting the child's custody. However, on December 1, 2020, during the CWC hearing, the director brought political support (including an MLA), along with a journalist and an advocate. But despite this, the CWC held its own decision of handing over the child to his biological mother, and did not got under immense pressure.

Thus, the CWC ordered the police to separate the child from the foster family and place it in Asha Sadan, a government-run orphanage in Mumbai. The CWC then asked Farzana Ansari (Social Worker of Shraddha Foundation)  who was present during the proceedings, to come a couple of days later along with Madhavi and the Railway Police to collect the child. But at the same night, police personnel went to Asha Sadan, took the child and handed him back to the director's family. Since then, the child has been with them.

On December 2, 2020, a CWC member rang up Farzana Ansari and mentioned that the process of handing over the child to the biological mother might get other way round and the decision could go in the pockets of the foster family. It appeared that their independent functioning was getting compromised and over-ruled under political pressure. "Madhavi has been in our Karjat Centre for more than a year. We have all legal documents in place, including one from her village pradhan and police station stating that she had left the village with her child.The Borivali Railway Police has placed on record that Madhavi was breastfeeding the child at the railway station. We too have placed on record that she was lactating even in the Karjat Centre. There are fears that the entire proceedings may get hijacked by political and financial clout. Only proactive intervention from society can solve the matter in favour of Madhavi and her family." Said Dr. Bharat Vatwani.  

Timeline of Events –

1. A woman with her new born child was spotted at Borivli railway station  on 16th September, 2019.  As she was suffering from mental illness so she was seen alternating between caring for the baby and beating him up, evident from the wounds on the child's body. After seeing strange behaviour of  mother  the railway police got the woman admitted to Shraddha Rehabilitation Foundation and the child was taken to Children's Welfare Committee (CWC).

2. On 17th September, 2019 the woman was found by railway police and admitted to Shraddha Rehabilitation Centre.

3. The Family Service Centre (FSC), on 4th November, 2019, asked the Shraddha Rehabilitation Foundation for an update on the mother's health. She had improved rapidly and the centre gave a medical and psychiatric fitness certificate. They informed FSC that the mother is longing for her child and keeping separated could result in severe depression.

4. During 3rd December, 2019 till January, 14, 2020, Madhavi (mother) was sent to BYL Nair Government Hospital, Mumbai as per standard protocol for medical observation on multiple occasions before she is given a fitness certificate.

5. Meanwhile, there was correspondence taking place between the FSC and CWC in Mumbai and the CWC in Arrah district, Bihar. And on 4th November, 2020 the FSC, Mumbai  wrote letter to Madhvi's father in Bihar, to come and take her and the child. And thus her father arrived on 22nd November, 2020.

6. On 24th November, 2020, on the advice of the CWC, a DNA test of the mother and child was done at JJ Hospital, Mumbai.  

7. On 1st December, 2020, Hearing took place at CWC which lasted for 3 hours, and gave directions to police to place the child in Asha Sadan, Mumbai which is a government-run orphanage. The CWC gave a memo to FSC that the child was out of their hands and asked social worker, Farzana Ansari, to come a few days later along with Madhavi and the Railway Police to collect the child. But on the same night, the foster family reached orphanage with a few policemen and took custody of the child.

8. On 2nd December, 2020, A CWC member called Farzana Ansari ( Social Worker of Shraddha Foundation) and narrated the whole incident.

9. On Saturday 12th December,2020, as per Child Welfare Committee (CWC) directions, the biological mother attended the last session for the physical and mental health assessment at BYL Nair hospital.

Now here arises Questions ???

"That in this City of Dreams, Mumbai there are approximately 62,000 children staying with their poor parents who cannot afford to take care of them. Should these kids be separated from their biological parents and handed over to families who have good financial capacity under the name of Foster Parenting…..???" said Dr. Bharat Vatwani.

"Can a biological mother be deprived of her right to motherhood just because she is a victim of psychiatric illness…..???" said Dr. Bharat Vatwani.

If the mother doesn't gets the custody of her child , she might land up into severe depression in such a case who will be held responsible…..???

We as Youngsters and living in modern era of 21st century should stand with Mother Madhavi in getting her son's custody from the foster parents, as we know that fostering parents are temporary arrangement for taking care of child. Moreover, A child's best interest is invested in his biological mother's love and affection.

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