Father lifts lid on India-Norway child custody row

The Indian father of two children who were taken into care by Norwegian social services, sparking a diplomatic row with New Delhi, told a newspaper on Tuesday his wife had a "psychological problem".

Anurup Bhattacharya and his wife Sagarika, who live in Norway, previously insisted that their children were taken in May last year because of a cultural bias against Indians and they enlisted the foreign ministry in their battle.

Norwegian officials said that confidentiality prevented them from discussing the case, but they denied reports in the Indian media that the children, aged three and one, had been removed for reasons such as eating with their hands.

"It was not just cultural bias that prompted the CWS (child welfare services) to act. My wife has a serious psychological problem," Anurup, who is now seeking custody of the children, told Tuesday's The Hindu newspaper.

Anurup said he was speaking out after a row with his wife in which she allegedly attacked him, and that he had "concealed the seriousness" of problems within his family. His wife's version of events was not given.

The revelation casts a new light on a case that drew widespread media attention in India, much of it highly critical of the Norwegian authorities, and calls into question the involvement of the Indian foreign ministry.

Foreign Minister S.M. Krishna had demanded that Norway "find an amicable and urgent solution" in returning the children to the family.

Norwegian social workers have since agreed to place the children with an uncle in India.

A court in the town of Stavanger, where Anurup worked for oil firm Total, must still take the final decision in the case. A provisional date for the hearing has been set for March 23rd.

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Why Norway is at both the top and bottom of Unicef ranking

Although Norway tops a new Unicef list of children's chances of good health, the country fares far worse when it comes to protecting children's rights to a good climate in the future.

Why Norway is at both the top and bottom of Unicef ranking
Norwegian children meeting Crown Princess Mette-Marit. File photo: AFP

A commission appointed by Unicef and the WHO has produced the report A future for the world’s children?, published by medical journal The Lancet.

40 experts were appointed by the commission to review worldwide health prospects for children and young people.

In the report, 180 countries are ranked by the opportunities with which they provide children for their futures. This includes basic survival, health, education, nutrition, sustainability, justice and inequality.

“It’s time for a new approach to the health of children, a new era in which all governments ensure that the wellbeing of children comes before anything else,” Unicef Norway general secretary Camilla Viken told news bureau NTB.

With regard to the global health of children, Viken noted that, despite huge improvements in general over the last 20 years, development has stagnated and is at risk of being reversed in the worst cases.

“Climate change, dangerous marketing and obesity are some of the newer and greatest threats against our children, threats which were unthinkable a few generations ago,” she said.

No country is free of flaws in all sections of the report, which focuses on how well countries are ensuring health, environment and a secure future for children.

Norway is, though, top of the list for giving children the best possible chance of good health, just ahead of South Korea and the Netherlands. Scandinavian neighbours Denmark and Sweden and 6th and 13th respectively.

But on the question of protecting the climate for future generations, Norway is to be found on the lower reaches of the ranking, in 156th place. Interestingly South Korea and the Netherlands also perform poorly in this category, at 166th and 160th respectively.

READ ALSO: Norway's Equinor sets green goals but activists unimpressed

Norway emits 212 percent more CO2 per person of the 2030 climate target, a key reason for its low ranking. Denmark emits 122 percent of the target, putting it 135th, and Sweden is 55 percent over, corresponding to 116th place.

Another key element of the report is the potential impact of poor diets on the health of children. Heavy marketing of unhealthy products, targeted at children, is linked by the commission to increasing levels of obesity in children globally.

In 2016, 124 million children worldwide were obese, compared to 11 million in 1975, according to the report – an eleven-fold increase.

A Unicef report from last year placed Norway amongst countries with increasing incidence of obesity in children, NTB writes.

READ ALSO: Norwegian kids are fourth fittest in the world in 2016