India has a considerable issue with illegal organ rackets. The issues stretch back years and have left many impoverished, rural villages being manipulated into providing kidney donations to gangs which sell off the organs to international buyers.
On February 17th, a manhunt began for Dr Ketan Kaushik, a Delhi-based private practitioner who handled a kidney racketing gang’s international clientele. For six years the group had been at large encouraging Indian donors to sell their kidneys to the gang for sale on a global level, making the gang a considerable amount of money over their active period. International buyers were reportedly being charged Rs 1.25 crore (US$175,574) per kidney, making the illegal racket a lucrative trade.
The police began a hunt for Kaushik after members of the gang were overheard discussing their plans at a local restaurant. These members of the gang were later arrested and interrogated.
One of the individuals arrested — Gaurav Mishra — told police that Kaushik operated a large network across the city. This included agents deployed at hospitals and shrines targeting both wealthy individuals needing transplants and vulnerable, impoverished individuals who would be targeted in attempts to persuade them into donating kidneys.
One gang member, T Raj Kumar Rao, donated his own kidney before joining the group. “Rao would hold classes of prospective donors at a rented accommodation in Delhi to remove concerns about post-surgery complications. He would give his own example as a donor who led a healthy life,” said Naubasta station house officer (SHO), Samar Bahadur Yadav. “He would train donors to stamp out any suspicion and coach them to say they were voluntarily donating kidneys out of affection for the recipient, who could be a kin.”
Latest figures show that around 1.6 lakh patients are waiting for organs in the nation with a mere 12,000 donors available. This has created a situation ripe for a black market to operate.
Those who are desperate for life saving operations are willing to pay vastly inflated prices to save their lives. The contrast is also the case, with those living in abject poverty willing to donate their kidneys in exchange for a mere fraction of the final selling price simply in order to buy food.
Campaign have been enacted, such as “poochna mat bhoolo” or “don’t forget to ask” held in 2017, which targeted three lakh (300,000) doctors to attempt to encourage families to donate the organs of loved ones who lost their lives. The outcome has not increased the number of organ donations to any significant degree, allowing situations such as Delhi’s kidney racket to remain profitable.