The spotlight is back on India's infamous kidney bazaar. Mumbai's crime branch police on Monday arrested a Chennai-based doctor and four Mumbai-based touts for running an international kidney racket. Investigations revealed that it spanned across Chennai, Mumbai and Gujarat.
According to joint commissioner of police (crime) Rakesh Maria, the accused have confessed to running the racket since 2002 and conducting around 200 illegal transplants, with 100 kidneys being sourced from Mumbai alone.
It is indeed worrying that Gujarat and Tamil Nadu have earned notoriety in recent times for being active in "recruiting" and "duping" donors .Now the arrests prove that Mumbai is also a hotbed for such illegal activities.
In addition, it is being seen that the active policing in Mumbai has pushed most of the "donors" to Gujarat towns for tests and kidney retrieval. The kidneys were mostly handed over to foreigners from the Gulf, Sri Lanka and Myanmar, say officials. Senior Bombay Hospital doctor Suresh Trivedi was involved in a similar scam in 2004.
The nephrologist arrested on Monday has been named as Palani Ravichandran. He is from Saint Thomas Mount Hospital in Defence Colony in Chennai. The four Mumbai-based touts are Sandeep alias Brijendra Bisen (34), Manoj Bopche (27), Mohammad Hanif Mansuri (45) and Shameem Ahmed Qureshi (52). Officials give that a group of lawyers came to Mumbai when the police arrested the kingpin, Ravichandran, but they failed to bail him out as the court remanded him to police custody till October 16.
The modus operandi has been repeated over the years: touts hunt out the needy, befriend them over food and promise of money and conduct medical tests. Once the "donors"' kidney seem fit, they are encouraged to "sell" them for lakhs of rupees. Documents are forged to show the donor and recipient as being distant relatives. Most often that not, the donor is left with a pittance of the promised sum. Adds Maria: "As of now, we have booked all the accused on the charges of cheating but soon we will be applying the Human Organ Transplant Act of 1994."
Fortunately, this case came to light after Jitu Borkar (27) approached assistant police inspectors Dinesh Kadam and Dhananjay Daund of unit-III and told them that a few touts, promising him Rs 3 lakh, had duped him of one kidney. Kadam picked up Mansuri and found the racket to be a bigger scam. "We learnt that the accused had taken Borkar to Bharuch in Gujarat, where tests were done. He was then taken to Chennai and kept for a month in a bungalow with other such victims," deputy commissioner of police (crime) Deven Bharti says. Borkar was promised Rs 3 lakh, however, after his kidney was removed, he was just paid Rs 25,000. The thugs threatened to remove his other kidney when he asked for more money, Daund adds.
Some time later, the accused, including a few lawyers in the racket, took signatures of Borkar on a blank paper and forged an agreement that said Borkar and the recipient, a woman from Jaipur, were relatives. The Transplantation Act says the donor and the recipient should be relatives or the donation should be out of affection or attachments, which is duly verified by an authorizing committee appointed by the government.
"The accused have had transplantations done for commercial purposes and have cheated victims. We cannot rule out the arrest of more persons," says Maria .