'My baby isn't dead, she was stolen from me'

  • 8 December 2016
  • From the section India
Media captionThe Sarkars were told their baby had a heart problem

More than two years after doctors at a clinic in the eastern Indian city of Kolkata told her that her newborn had died, Kanon Sarkar believes that her baby girl is still alive.

On a summer evening in July 2014, the clinic handed her family the corpse of an infant, tightly wrapped in white cloth, and told them to go home.

The grief-stricken family returned to their village, some 100km (60 miles) from the city, and following Hindu tradition, immersed the infant's body in a river skirting the village. A year later, the parents burned the death certificate "to forget the bad memories".

"Now I am convinced that my newborn baby was stolen and sold. And I was given somebody else's dead baby," Mrs Sarkar, 27, told the BBC, welling up, outside her sparse home in West Bengal's North 24 Parganas district.

Babies in boxes

Her suspicions were aroused when news of a baby trafficking racket emerged in mid-November. Detectives belonging to the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) raided a grubby nursing home in Baduria, 80km from Kolkata, and rescued three newborns from cardboard biscuit boxes. The babies were meant to be sent to a Christian charity in the neighbourhood, from where they would be sold to childless couples.

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What do the cash queues tell us about India?

  • 29 November 2016
  • From the section India
Indians stand in queues to exchange or deposit discontinued currency notes outside an Axis Bank branch in central New Delhi, India. Image copyright AP
Image caption Millions of Indians have been standing in queues to deposit or withdraw cash

There was a time, not so long ago, when most Indians stood in queues for hours on end for essential goods and services.

I remember queues outside "fair-price shops", streetside taps, cinema houses and electricity offices. People lined up to buy cheap food and fuel, store up water, go to the cinema and pay bills.

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How will India destroy 20 billion banknotes?

  • 23 November 2016
  • From the section India
In this Nov. 16, 2016 file photo, a man holds a charred facsimile of the discontinued Indian currency 500 note after a protest by a traders association demanding adequate arrangement to exchange discontinued currency notes outside Reserve Bank of India in Kolkata, India. Image copyright AP
Image caption India will destroy some 20 billion "expired" banknotes

India's central bank will have to destroy, by one estimate, some 20 billion "expired" banknotes after it scrapped two high-value denominations - the 500 ($7.60) and 1,000 rupee notes - this month to crack down on "black money" or illegal cash holdings.

To give some idea of the amount of the currency that represents - there were more than 90 billion banknotes in circulation in India last March.

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Why do India's trains keep going off the rails?

  • 21 November 2016
  • From the section India
Rescue workers search for survivors at the site of Sunday"s train derailment in Pukhrayan, south of Kanpur city, India November 21, 2016. Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Sunday's crash was the worst in India in six years

A tremor was followed by a "loud sound like an earthquake". The carriages began to shake and inside them, sleeping passengers began falling on each other. Some carriages telescoped into each other, others rose vertically, "almost standing upright".

Survivors of Sunday's horrific train crash in India also said the train was "rattling" furiously on the tracks hours before the disaster.

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When the light got in for Leonard Cohen

  • 16 November 2016
  • From the section India
Leonard Cohen in Mumbai
Image caption Cohen forged a long friendship with Ratnesh Mathur, a fan, in Mumbai

On 7 February 1999, a journalist writing for India's The Times of India newspaper reported that he had briefly met Leonard Cohen in a "low-profile downtown hotel" in the city of Mumbai.

The Canadian singer, songwriter and poet had "magically materialised" in the lobby of the hotel, wrote the journalist. The "close-cropped, snow-haired" Cohen was wearing "a coal-black Armani evening suit, a cloud-grey silk shirt, an unlit cigarette dangling between forefingers".

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India rupee ban: Currency move is 'bad economics'

  • 14 November 2016
  • From the section India
An Indian passenger uses a 500 rupee note to purchase rail tickets at Allahabad Railway station in Allahabad on November 9, 2016 Image copyright AFP
Image caption India scrapped 500 ($7.6) and 1,000 rupee notes to crack down on corruption

India's dramatic move to scrap 500 ($7.60) and 1,000 rupee notes is poor economics, a leading economist says.

Kaushik Basu, the former chief economist for the World Bank, says the "collateral damage" is likely to outstrip its benefits.

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How India's currency ban is hurting the poor

  • 12 November 2016
  • From the section India
Indian people queue inside a bank to deposit 500 and 1000 Indian rupee notes in Rahimapur village on the outskirts of Allahabad on November 10, 2016. Image copyright AFP
Image caption Indians have queued up at banks to deposit their expired currency

India's latest crackdown on black money is turning out to be a nightmare for the poor and the middle class.

Three days after 500 ($7) and 1,000 rupee notes were withdrawn as part of anti-corruption measures, hordes of panicky people are thronging banks and ATMS to deposit expired money and withdraw lower denominations to run their lives.

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The Indian woman who 'stood up' to Donald Trump

  • 4 November 2016
  • From the section India
Smita Panvalkar stands inside her apartment in the Pathare Prabhu building, due to be demolished to make way for a luxury apartment building, in Mumbai on June 24, 2011. Image copyright AFP
Image caption Smita Panvalkar passed away last November

Five years ago, a 50-something woman living in a tumbledown 87-year-old building in Mumbai became the talk of the town for "standing up" to Donald Trump.

Reports described Smita Panvalkar, a homemaker, who lived with her husband, son and brother in the first floor of the building as a "gritty woman who stands between Donald Trump, easily the world's most glamorous real estate developer, and his first project in India".

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What the death of Dory the penguin says about India's zoos

  • 2 November 2016
  • From the section India
Penguins in Mumbai zoo
Image caption The eight birds were bought from an aquarium in Seoul

In July, Mumbai's main zoo welcomed a waddle of living penguins - the first to be displayed in India in nearly two decades - to spruce up its flagging image. But last month, one of them, affectionately named Dory, died of a bacterial infection.

"The death of Dory was an unfortunate incident," zoo director Dr Sanjay Tripathi told me. "The upkeep of penguins here is being done according to international standards."

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Why are millions of Indians marching in silence?

  • 5 October 2016
  • From the section India
Maratha march in Pune Image copyright VAISHALI GALIM
Image caption Millions of Marathas have participated in the marches across Maharashtra

For the past six weeks, millions of people have been marching silently across Maharashtra, a state as populous as Mexico.

It is a unique protest: the silent marchers have no leaders; and they include the peasant and the professional. Women lead many of the marches; and politicians are not allowed to seize them. It is a sound of silence, says a commentator, that India can ill afford to ignore.

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