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Victims who’ve vanished

It is clear that there is also political pressure on the medical fraternity to either collude in or turn a blind eye to this illegal trade.
By HT Correspondent | Hindustan Times
UPDATED ON FEB 10, 2008 10:12 PM IST

From an obscure house in Gurgaon to a remote jungle resort in Chitwan, Nepal, where he has been finally nabbed, we have been through a horrific roller coaster ride with the man who is allegedly one of India’s leading kidney dealers. With almost vicarious fascination, we learn day after day of his enormous wealth, he was carrying hundreds of thousands of rupees as loose change when caught, and his palatial homes both in India and abroad. Of his fascination with luxury cars and failed beauty queens. Of his extensive contacts across the world where he found recipients for his gruesome racket.

While this ghastly drama was unfolding, reports surfaced of the organised trade in blood right outside premier hospitals in the capital. As each scandal surfaces, we see the nefarious collusion between sections of the medical community and organ traffickers like kidney kingpin Amit Kumar. But that apart, the one piece in the macabre jigsaw that we rarely bother about is that of the victims. It is no secret that unscrupulous touts exploit the grinding poverty, and often illiteracy, of their victims in order to lure them to clinics where they are deprived of their kidneys. In the Gurgaon clinic that has been busted, we learn that at least 500 kidney transplants had taken place over the past few years. The question then arises, what happened to the donors? We can be fairly certain that they did not receive the requisite post-operative care without which the donor is condemned to a life of debilitating ill health and even early death. The police seem to have made no effort to trace these unfortunate people. In Chennai, the hub of the kidney trade in India, over 2,000 people sell their kidneys each year. Many victims are trafficked from Nepal and once the deal is through sent back home.

It is clear that there is also political pressure on the medical fraternity to either collude in or turn a blind eye to this illegal trade. According to a 1994 legislation, a State-approved ethics committee must approve all transplants. But, as many tsunami survivors who sold their kidneys testified, getting around such committees was relatively easy. The testimony of the victims is crucially in the legal procedure against charlatans like Kumar. If it is proved that coercion was used to trap a donor, then the penalties are that much higher. The state that was caught napping while people were being deprived of vital organs, owes it to them to listen to their side of the story.

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