Boatman Gullu Chaudhary was among the swarm of local villagers who heard the frantic cries of the baby at Dadri Ghat at Ghazipur. Mr Chaudhary told the media that when people heard the cries, no one stepped forward to help.
“But I rushed to rescue her. When I opened the wooden box, I found her,” he said.
There was a chit of paper beside the baby inside the wooden box which read: “Daughter of the Ganga.” The box also carried the child’s horoscope chart, reports said.
Videos of Mr Chaudhary picking up the girl from the wooden box soon became viral with even Yogi Adityanath, chief minister of the state, applauding the boatman for saving the infant’s life.
He also promised that the state will take responsibility for the child. Mr Adityanath tweeted: “As a token of gratitude, he will be benefited by all eligible government schemes. The UP government will make arrangements for the upbringing of the child.”
The baby girl was wrapped in a red cloth and the wooden box was covered with images of Hindu deities. It also had incense sticks — used during pooja or worship.
Mr Chaudhary said he wants to bring up the baby girl for she was a “gift from the river Ganga,” considered holy by Hindus in India.
Officials in Ghazipur in Uttar Pradesh soon went to the boatman’s house to take the baby to the hospital. It is believed that the baby will be taken to a children’s shelter.
Local reports said district magistrate MP Singh had checked in on the baby. The infant was sent to the district hospital where doctors are monitoring her health.
The local police have not yet revealed the reason for the child’s abandonment. Police are, however, looking for the parents of the abandoned girl. Child abandonment is a punishable offence in India. Female infants are sometimes found abandoned in India — victims of a patriarchal society that still in many parts of the country prioritises male children.
India has about 29.6 million orphaned and abandoned children, as per the United Nations Children’s Fund.
As many as 30,071 children in India were impacted by the coronavirus pandemic, including those who have been abandoned, orphaned or lost a parent, statistics by the National Commission for Child Rights (NCPCR) said.
In 2019, Andhra Pradesh and Chhattisgarh were the two states with the highest number of infanticide cases reported, with ten cases each. Maharashtra had eight. However, many believe the unofficial number could be much higher.
The State of World Population 2020 report released last year in June by the United Nations Population Fund also revealed that India accounts for 45.8 million of the world’s 142.6 million “missing females” over the past 50 years. It found that the number of missing women has more than doubled over the past 50 years – from 61 million in 1970 to a cumulative 142.6 million in 2020.