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Friday, Dec 13, 2019

After kidney scam, India eyes anti-quackery bill

The Indian government is considering enacting legislation to outlaw quacks following the multi-state racket.

delhi Updated: Feb 03, 2008 16:16 IST
Rajeev Ranjan Roy
Rajeev Ranjan Roy

The Indian government is considering enacting legislation to outlaw quacks following the multi-state racket where unqualified doctors conducted hundreds of illegal kidney transplants for huge profits.

No one seems to know, however, just how many quacks - people who act like doctors and even do surgeries without valid medical qualification - are there all over India. One estimate puts the number at a staggering one million.

Some say this is a conservative figure. In Delhi alone, according to some officials and doctors, there are as many as 40,000 quacks operating from homes and clinics. Because of the high fees qualified doctors charge, a large number of poor people patronise quacks.

Amit Kumar, the kingpin of the multi-million-rupee kidney racket busted last week in Gurgaon near New Delhi, too was a quack. But he ran his operation for nine long years, his network of clients coming from all over India and even abroad.

Not just Amit Kumar, even his brother Jeewan Raut is a quack. Amit Kumar has been described as an ayurveda doctor who, however, never practised the ancient Indian system of medicine. Instead, he went for quick money.

"The central government does not appear serious about the problem of quackery. The state governments too are not framing any laws against them. The need of the hour is to check the gory trade in human organs," SN Mishra, president of the Indian Medical Association (IMA), the apex body of doctors, told IANS.

So are there a million quacks in India?

"The number could be much higher," said Anil Bansal, a member of the Delhi Medical Council. "We have several times asked for a survey to ascertain their number and to initiate action against them."

He said the Delhi government drafted a bill in 1998, which the assembly approved with the rider that quacks be rehabilitated. But the bill did not see the light of day.

"The rehabilitation of quacks involved financial implications running into millions of rupees. So the bill could not take the shape of law as the Delhi assembly got dissolved," he said.

Bansal, who is synonymous with the campaign against quacks in the capital, said that in 2000 former health minister CP Thakur was ready with a draft of an anti-quackery bill. However, it could not come up for discussion and approval in Parliament.

The ministry of health and family welfare is looking into the demand for such a legislation. "It is at the discussion level," a ministry official requesting anonymity told IANS.

Delhi Chief Secretary Rakesh Mehta also told IANS that the government was working to redraft the earlier anti-quackery bill. "The earlier bill had lacunae and needed a serious re-look into several dimensions of the problem."

Even the police feel constrained due to the lack of legislation.

"The complaint against quacks has to come either from the public or doctors' bodies to enable us to act," Delhi Police spokesperson Rajan Bhagat said.

"Legislation framed either at the central or state level would empower the police to take action against anyone violating the law. At present, there are no laws that allow us to prosecute the quacks," Bhagat told IANS.