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India has ordered immediate checks to be carried out at all childcare homes run by a religious order set up by Mother Teresa. The move comes after a nun and a charity worker were accused of selling babies.
All state governments have been instructed to "get childcare homes run by Missionaries of Charity all over the country inspected immediately," India's Women and Child Development Ministry said in a statement.
Earlier this month, police shut down one of the charity's homes for unwed mothers in eastern Jharkhand province over allegations of child trafficking. A nun and an employee were arrested and accused of selling up to five infants for potentially thousands of dollars.
Activists say a huge demand for adoption in India has led to illegal schemes, including cases of babies and children being trafficked through charity-run shelters.
Mother Teresa founded Missionaries of Charity in 1950 and went on to set up shelters to care for society's most vulnerable
Ministry promises 'strong action'
The Ministry also announced that all childcare institutions must be registered and linked to the federal adoption authority within the next month. Although it is already mandatory for all facilities to be registered, the Ministry said 4,000 centers were still to complete the process.
The chairwoman of Jharkhand State Commission for Protection of Child Rights, Arti Kujur, said the state had formed teams to carry out checks at all its shelter homes, adding that it hoped to receive reports next month.
"If we find anyone operating such homes illegally, strong action will be taken," Kujur told Reuters.
Since it was founded by Mother Teresa in 1950, Missionaries of Charity has set up hundreds of institutions, including several homes for unmarried, pregnant women, across the country.
Mother Teresa received the Nobel Peace Prize for her charitable work in 1979 and Pope Francis declared her a saint in 2016.
nm/kms (Reuters, AFP)