The All India Institute of Medical Sciences and the Safdarjung Hospital have turned hunting grounds for touts selling goat milk and papaya leaves, believed to increase blood-platelet count in dengue patients, at sky-high prices.
Much like selling a movie ticket in black, a middle-aged man covertly whispers, “Kitna count hai?” (What’s the count?), offering to sell a glass of goat milk for Rs 800 and a shriveled, dry blade of papaya leaf for Rs 500. Attendants at both hospitals say the rates have sky-rocketed to similar prices over two weeks.
“In September beginning, a glass of goat milk was sold for Rs 600 and a single papaya leaf was Rs 200. But the rise in the death toll and the dengue scare by the media have pushed up the prices,” says Ram Mohan, a staff at Safdarjung Hospital.
“The leaves are from my neighbourhood, and its juice is said to shoot up platelet count. It is a tried and tested method. What is wrong in selling something that would help cure someone?” says a seller at Safdarjung Hospital’s emergency department, on condition of anonymity.
However, he justified the exorbitant rates for his ‘help’ as pure economics because it is rare to find these leaves in the city.
He introduced this reporter to a goat-milk seller, Susheel. A dairy owner in Shahpur Jat, it has only been a week since he started selling milk here.
“I park my moped outside, and when I get the order I go outside and get a glass for them, carefully sealed with aluminum foil. I only get a few litres because goat’s milk spoils real quick,” says Susheel. And the business is carried out only before dusk as none of the ‘traders’ could be found in the evening.
However, doctors say these methods don’t work. “In allopathy, there is nothing specific to increase platelet count. We tell patients we have no proof whether these home remedies work and we don’t prescribe it, but since it has no side effects, we don’t warn against it either,” said Dr RK Singal, director, department of internal medicine at BLK Super-Specialty Hospital.
“Imagine looking for goat’s milk in Delhi. People are really scared of the D word,” he says.