ebruary 18, 2007. A two-and-a-half month old boy was found in a compartment of Indore-Hingoli express. Not able to trace his parents around, the railway police handed him over to Khandwa district hospital, Madhya Pradesh. A nurse in the hospital named him Shiv. Shiv was later adopted by Bhagwandas and Anjana Ahuja. The Ahujas had a fortune to their name, but no heir. Shiv ’s story featured in many newspapers across the nation. Many saw Shiv’s life as an ideal story of one’s fate, perhaps a result of good karma in the past life. Shiv was destiny’s child.
The story, however, also sheds light on the darker shades of the picture, an acute problem that ails our world today – child abandonment. Abandoned Children’s Fund, an organisation that works among abandoned children, claims that there are over 20 million homeless or abandoned children in the world today. India is one of the Asian countries leading the trend. According to Justice Verma committee, 60,000 children are abandoned every year. Topping the chart is Maharashtra, followed by Rajasthan, Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh. Some like Shiv find home, but most do not. Out of all the abandoned children in 2010, only 2,518 were adopted. Where did the rest of them vanish? Some had found new families in foster care homes and orphanages, but most of them had ended up in human trafficking rackets. The trafficked children are then used for prostitution, forced marriage, illegal adoption, cheap labour and even for organ harvesting.
The story of Pastor Lee Jong-rak is a gush of fresh wind in this perilous situation. Pastor Lee noticed a grave problem plaguing South Korea – hundreds of unwanted babies abandoned on the side of the streets in Seoul. He knew he needed to do something. He built a “drop box” and placed it in front of his house. A sign on the box read: “Place to leave babies.” The box is made cosy with thick towel at the bottom, and sufficient lights and heat to keep the baby safe. As soon as someone places the baby in the box, the bell attached to the box rings, and Pastor Lee and his wife Chun-ja, immediately collect the baby. Till date the family has collected more than 600 babies.
Lee’s concern is born out of his experience. Lee’s own child, named Eun-man (meaning full of God’s grace) was born with cerebral palsy, leading Lee to question God’s goodness. But it was in this child that he came to recognise the preciousness of life. Lee, not only came close to God, he even studied theology to become a Christian minister.