Over the last few days, Norway almost seemed to be a ‘nanny state’ to most in India. What else can explain the curious, yet at the same time callous, case of its child care service taking into custody two Indian kids less than three years of age? The ground is bound to appear flimsy to most parents, South Asians specifically. The Norwegian court found the parents, mainly the mother, to be incapable of caring for her kids only because they overfed them, did not use cutlery and, wait till you hear this, made them sleep in the parent’s bed! This in brief is the shocking story of the Stavanger-based NRI Bhattacharya couple from Calcutta. With the External Affairs Ministry of the Government of India taking up the case amidst much controversy, the children’s return to India seems imminent. But the roots of the problem run deeper.
For most of us in South Asia, the Scandinavian states symbolize high standards of social security. But the truth, as it emerges from this incident, is otherwise. Ask most locals and they may tell you terrible tales of an interventionist state which runs an industry on the premise of child protection. Foster parents, like the ones to whom the two kids mentioned above had been sent, earn huge amounts in cash and perks for these so-called services. Needless to say, the worst victims of this social work are the poor. The foreigners are very vulnerable as well, what with the various cultural biases coming into play.
It is good to know that our children will soon be back in the country under the protective gaze of their grandparents. It is a victory for India in some ways even though our own systems need a serious shake-up. The story of the little baby Falak, badly battered and bruised, is a grim reminder of the same.