'India closely monitoring progress in NRI kids custody row'

SM Krishna
New Delhi, Mar 1: India is "closely monitoring" the progress in the NRI children custody row, External Affairs Minister S M Krishna said here on Thursday.

Krishna, who received a report from Madhusudan Ganapathi, Secretary (West) in the Ministry, said it was government's earnest endeavour to get the children back but as a judicial proceeding in the case was on, any effort could be made only after March 23, the date of the hearing.

He said the Secretary told him that he could meet several senior ministers concerned including the Norwegian Foreign Minister but since the matter was in court, the executive cannot do much in the case.

However, he said, the Ministry is closely monitoring the case and if necessary, he will again send high-level officials.

Abhigyan (1) and Aishwarya (3), children of Anurup and Sagarika Bhattacharya, an NRI couple living in Norway, were taken away by Barnevarne Norwegian CWS last May on the ground of "emotional disconnect" and put in a foster home.

Following intense diplomatic pressure from New Delhi, the Norwegian Child Welfare Service has already decided to award the custody of two children to the brother of their father enabling him to bring them back to India. They will make the submission in the court now.

Ganapathi, while talking to reporters outside the Norwegian Embassy, said the authorities in Oslo have agreed to grant the custody of the two children to their uncle.

"I met the Ministers of Foreign Affairs and Children's Affairs there. They have made a recommendation on the evaluation carried out on the uncle of the children. He will be qualified to be able to take care of the children and they will appeal to the court on March 23 to revoke the earlier decision of the children being placed in foster care," he said.

The Secretary said the "uncle is in a position to bring the children back to India and allow them to grow in an environment which is their natural and which is God has ordained them to be so".

The Norwegian Child Welfare Services had issued a press release on Tuesday saying that on basis of the evaluation undertaken on the uncle, he is qualified to bring up the children in an extended family.

"They will present there recommendation and evaluation for the court to revoke their earlier decision and enable them to bring to India. And they feel it is in the best interest of the children to allow them to come back to India," Ganapthi said.

Asked what were the reasons behind the incident, he said, "Let us not go back. Let us look forward. I won't like to answer that because when we are looking at a forward looking message, I won't like to look back."

On whether India was slow in handling the case, Ganpathi said, "I don't agree. There can be other reasons as well. But since our Minister got to know about it, he took steps and according to that only he had a word with his Norwegian counterpart and I was sent there."


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