Is India becoming a gynecological two-dollar shop? Is the country, often described as conservative in relation to family laws, remarkably liberal in its attitude towards surrogacy? Is surrogacy something that allows fulfillment of dream and desire for the rich, but gives no protection to the poor? Is it a new form of exploitation of the illiterate and vulnerable in a developing country like India? A volley of questions comes popping up as the billion-dollar wombs-for-rent industry grows rapidly in the country amid increasing calls to discipline it.
How does it feel to have your identity as a mother regulated and terminated by a contract? It’s a question not very easy to answer for hordes of poor women who carry and deliver babies for other infertile couples. The mother of all ironies is that they are never called mothers, and they are told that their wombs are just a temporary nine-month home for the newborn. That’s the name of a billion-dollar trade called surrogacy, a job that, when completed, spurns any sentimental or legal strings with the babies. But is it as simple as that?
Primarily, and most importantly, it means a lot of money for a huge number of poor women in a country where more than 400 million people live below the international poverty line of $1.25 a day. A woman who goes through the labor of carrying and delivering a child for an infertile couple is paid Rs300,000 ($6,750). And high-born surrogates can charge double the amount from those who prefer an upper-caste Brahmin surrogate woman. That’s an irresistible invitation – a windfall that they cannot even dream of in nine years of back-breaking hard work.
In certain ways he represents a resurgent India, or in a wider context, a new Asia, that looks the rest of the world in the eye and refuses to blink. There is an aura of understated self-belief and quiet assertion of fearlessness. His professor-like looks are simple, his words convincing, his smiles disarming. They speak of clear focus and serious intent. Enter N.R. Narayana Murthy, the founder of India’s IT giant called Infosys. But this 64-year-old electrical engineer is much more than that.