The Future is Here, Finally

Nearly three decades ago best-selling author and futurologist Alvin Toffler predicted quite a few "future" trends that seemed too way out to be credible. One of these was: as medical science progresses and organ transplant surgical procedures get perfected gangs of doctors, mafiosi and allied miscreants would join hands to start a new industry, that of illegal organ transplants.

Naturally, one would take all this with a pinch of salt. This prediction had come within years of the first heart transplant by Dr Christian Bernard. It must have taken Toffler some methodical speculation and precise thinking to be able to come to this conclusion so early on in the history of organ transplants.

There were socio-economic and, even political, implications of what Toffler had written in his best-seller, Future Shock. He said doctors allied with assorted mafiosi would probably kill undefended people and take away their organs to be sold to revive people dying from organ failure. There could be other illegal and immoral ways of transacting this gruesome business, like buying organs of extremely poor people, or taking out their organs through fraudulent surgical operations, or forcing them to allow their organs to be taken out under grave threat from assorted gangsters. In all this doctors had a central role both in taking out organs of poor donors and transplanting them on rich recipients.

The existence of a racket almost exactly identical to the one presaged by Toffler was unearthed in Gurgaon, the prestigious business and residential district just across the Delhi border in Haryana, last week. Gurgaon is part of national capital region (NCR) and the existence of such a racket right under the nose of the highest authority in the land is a matter of great shame. The Gurgaon police, in cooperation with their colleagues from neighbouring Uttar Pradesh, busted this racket. They are claiming great credit for this while the fact remains that the blame for allowing this ghoulish trade to flourish also goes to them.

According to the police they had carried out up to 500 kidney transplant operations over the last nine years. They gave between Rs 50,000 and Rs 100,000 to the donors (in some cases they did not give anything at all) but charged between Rs 1500,000 and Rs 2500,000 from recipients. The police also arrested two patients waiting to get illegal kidney transplants. One was a non-resident Indian from the United States and another a Greek woman. They nabbed a doctor and three poor daily-wage earners whose kidney had been freshly removed and were in great pain.

The kingpin, Dr Amit Kumar, is absconding. So is his brother, Dr Jewan Kumar. Two other doctors (probably Amit and Jewan's relatives), Dr Saraj Kumar and Dr Upendra Kumar, are also said to be involved. Upendra was arrested by the police in Moradabad. Amit Kumar is said to have been operating in Mumbai under a false name. After his racket came to light he disappeared and resurfaced in Gurgaon assuming a new identity.

He had a massive network of touts, toughs, and doctors at different places, including at Moradabad. The police say he has been spending half of the year in Canada (where his family lives) and half in India. He used to get rich patients from Canada, Europe, the US and other such countries. Amit Kumar is only one of a number of racketeering kidney surgeons based in Gurgaon, Chennai, Mumbai and other places in India. These are the people who have turned Asia into the "warehouse of human organs".

One of the greatest kidney racketeers Dr Ravichandran of Chennai was nabbed last year. He is said to have done 750 illegal kidney transplants since 2002. He used to charge Rs 20-25 lakh per transplant and is estimated to have amassed Rs 500 crore.

The last few days have seen a series of disclosures of the racket's network spread all over India, Europe, Middle East and North America. The kingpin, Dr Amit Kumar (an ayurvedic graduate) is still at large. This only confirms international reports on Asia being the big bazaar of human organs. It turns out that India is at the centre of the bazaar.

Will it be too much to expect arrest and trial of the accused? Keeping the level of corruption and political patronage to all such illegal activities in mind it may not be realistic to expect a speedy investigation, trial and conviction of the culprits - doctors, mafiosi, police officials, touts, toughs and their political patrons. g


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