Highlights

  • Days after Pune case, kidney racket uncovered by Delhi police
  • Over 10 people arrested by Delhi police for alleged illegal organ trade
  • Demand, ease, expertise main reasons for thriving kidney rackets

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One of the main reasons why kidney rackets are common is demand. India sees around 2 lakh cases of end-stage kidney failure every year, with patients needing either transplant or dialysis. Only 5,000 to 9,000 transplants reportedly take place.

An operation theatre would be a scary place for most people. But what if the person doing the surgery is not a doctor? And the patient has been lured or cheated into coming for the procedure? And the objective is to steal the patient's internal organs?

This nightmare plays out time and again in different parts of India. This time it is the national capital. More than ten people have been arrested by Delhi police in a kidney racket case.

The gang allegedly transplanted over 20 kidneys, and the procedures were done at a clinic in Gohana, in Haryana's Sonipat. The gang was allegedly led by Kuldeep Ray Vishwakarma, an operation theatre technician. Some of the accused worked at prominent hospitals in the national capital region.

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The gang adopted a modus operandi similar to many kidney rackets in the past. They targeted people in dire need of money, and in the age group of 20 to 30 years. The gang used motivational videos and also a Facebook page to lure targets.

Two accused named Shailesh and Sarvjeet allegedly enticed and convinced victims. A person named Latif allegedly helped in conducting the victims' medical tests. Vikas, another accused, helped with accommodation and travel of the victims to Gohana, where illegal transplants were done at Dr Sonu Rohilla's clinic, as per police.

Many such rackets have been busted by police in various parts of India. In 2002, a dangerous operation was uncovered in Punjab's Amritsar. In 2008, a similar racket was unearthed in Haryana's Gurgaon. Surgeries were done at a private house. In 2018, needly recipients were allegedly lured with fake documents at a Kolkata hospital. In May 2022, an alleged kidney racket was busted at Pune's Ruby Hall clinic.

There are multiple reasons why kidney rackets are so common. The biggest reason is demand. India sees around 2 lakh cases of end-stage kidney failure every year, with patients needing either transplant or dialysis. But only 5,000 to 9,000 transplants reportedly take place.

Another reason is that kidneys survive outside the body for 24 to 36 hours, compared to just a few hours for liver and lungs. At ₹5-10 lakhs, the cost of a kidney transplant is also much lower than other organs. Additionally, most urologists are trained to do kidney transplants, and patients do not face undue risks.

Kidney transplant is governed in India by the Transplantation of Human Organs and Tissues Act, 1994. The law reportedly says that organs can be taken from recipient's living close relatives like children, siblings, spouse, grandparents, and grandchildren. Distant relatives, long-term friends, and parents-in-law can also donate, but money can't exchange hands. Swap transplants, and donations from brain-dead and cardiac-dead patients are also reportedly allowed. Living donations are checked by a hospital committee to prevent commercial transactions.

The law also lays down punishments for different types of offences. For removal of human organs without authority, the maximum penalty is a 10-year jail term, and ₹20 lakh fine. For commercial dealing in human organs, the maximum punishment is a 10-year jail term, and ₹1 crore fine.

Despite such strict penalties, organ trade - especially kidneys - continues to thrive in India. Apart from plugging gaps in the implementation of the laws, experts believe that spreading awareness about organ donation from the deceased can help deal with the demand-supply issue to a great extent.

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