India Today - - FROM THE EDITOR- IN- CHIEF -

This week, the mag­a­zine gives you a break from the hurly- burly of pol­i­tics which seems more of the same— the dis­rup­tions in Par­lia­ment, the ca­reen­ing econ­omy, the tum­bling ru­pee, the elec­toral pos­tur­ing and sop- giv­ing. We tell a very hu­man story up close and per­sonal from the bustling town of Anand. A town, halfway be­tween Ahmed­abad and Vado­dara in the heart of cen­tral Gu­jarat, which has long been syn­ony­mous with In­dia’s co­op­er­a­tive milk in­dus­try. It houses the head of­fice of the Gu­jarat Co­op­er­a­tive Milk Mar­ket­ing Fed­er­a­tion Ltd, whose brand Amul sparked the White Rev­o­lu­tion and con­tin­ues to give In­dia some of its most creative ad­ver­tis­ing through a chubby lit­tle ‘ but­ter girl’ in a polka- dot­ted dress.

But Anand is now home to a dif­fer­ent kind of co­op­er­a­tive cot­tage in­dus­try. It is fast emerg­ing as an in­ter­na­tional des­ti­na­tion for sur­ro­gate ba­bies, and has so far pro­vided child­less par­ents from In­dia and 34 other coun­tries a chance to ful­fil their as­pi­ra­tions. On Au­gust 5, a 28- year- old woman, now known as Sur­ro­gate No. 500, gave birth to a baby girl at Anand’s Sat Kaival Hos­pi­tal and Akanksha In­fer­til­ity Clinic, in­ad­ver­tently be­com­ing a mile­stone that has come to define what the sur­ro­gacy boom is do­ing for women from the re­gion. A sin­gle mother of two sons aged five and three, she earned Rs 2,000 a month do­ing house­work. Be­ing a sur­ro­gate for a cou­ple from Lucknow has given her Rs 3 lakh now. “I can build my own house now,” she says. Anand houses sev­eral oth­ers like her.

Sur­ro­gacy still re­mains a grey area in terms of how In­dian laws deal with it. Con­stant govern­ment flip- flops on the sta­tus of sin­gle par­ents be­ing used as sur­ro­gates, the mar­i­tal sta­tus of cou­ples, per­mis­sions for same- sex par­ents, and for­eign par­ents, have caused a host of prob­lems. The As­sisted Re­pro­duc­tive Tech­nol­ogy ( Reg­u­la­tion) Bill, 2010, which is in the draft­ing stage, is ex­pected to change things for the bet­ter. But full so­cial ac­cep­tance may take a lit­tle longer. Even in Anand, ine­bri­ated hus­bands are found hurl­ing abuses out­side homes where sur­ro­gate mothers live to­gether dur­ing preg­nancy, sud­denly un­able to bear the idea of their wives car­ry­ing an­other man’s baby.

The lo­cal Methodist and Catholic churches, and maul­vis and pun­dits, have all preached against sur­ro­gacy to their re­spec­tive con­gre­ga­tions. But re­cent en­dorse­ments by Aamir Khan and his wife Ki­ran Rao, whose baby boy Azad was born through a sur­ro­gate mother in 2011, and Shah Rukh Khan and his wife Gauri, whose boy AbRam was de­liv­ered via sur­ro­gacy this May, are go­ing a long way to­wards help­ing lift the so­cial stigma at­tached with the pro­ce­dure. Ac­cord­ing to KPMG’s Life­Sciences wing, the fer­til­ity in­dus­try in In­dia is to­day worth $ 125 mil­lion. Sur­ro­gacy, which forms roughly 7 per cent of that, stands at around $ 9 mil­lion. Ex­perts say that th­ese are just es­ti­mates and the num­bers will grow when more such cases are re­ported.

Our cover story, writ­ten by Se­nior Edi­tor Gay­a­tri Jayaraman with im­ages by Ro­hit Chawla, takes you to the sur­ro­gacy clin­ics in Anand, where they put to­gether an en­gag­ing story on how this new baby boom is af­fect­ing the town and the towns­peo­ple. “The most poignant mo­ment of the trip was when a sur­ro­gate called the child in her womb ‘ ha­mara bachcha’ ( my child), and then stopped her­self. She said al­most apolo­get­i­cally, ‘ What to do, we some­times be­gin to think of it as our own’,” Jayaraman says.

Born through any method, a baby is a bless­ing like no other for any cou­ple crav­ing one. The clin­ics of Anand are har­ness­ing this long­ing. They may be pro­vid­ing a ser­vice, but they’re also pro­vid­ing hope.


( Aroon Purie)

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