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Surgical scamster on the run

The kidney racket that was busted three years ago in Delhi seems to have shifted to Kanpur with its kingpin a Kolkata man who was nabbed earlier and is out on bail

recently in Kanpur and six people were arrested in connection with it. This racket seems to have a link with the 2016 kidney racket that was busted in Apollo Hospital. There is a common thread — the kingpin of the racket, T Raj Kumar Rao, who belongs to Kolkata and is on the run. He apparently regrouped his crooks and started operating from hospitals in Kanpur. Further investigations have also revealed global linkages and the probe picked up pace with the cops launching a manhunt for Dr Ketan Kaushik, a Delhi-based private practitioner who handled the gang’s foreign clientele.

The multi-crore organ harvesting trade, which flourished for six years across three states (West Bengal, UP, Delhi) was nixed by UP Police after a tip-off when informers overheard a gang casually discussing their plot at a local restaurant. Kaushik’s name cropped up during the interrogation of the six gang members, including donors who worked as agents. Two of the arrested gang members claimed to have met the doctor in Delhi several times to discuss kidney transplants after trapping gullible donors.

Kaushik’s task, allegedly, was to send the donor to the country where the recipient was based. He also used to coordinate between the client and the donor and arrange surgeons too, for an extra fee. “The doctor played a key role in making tourist visas of donors who would be dispatched to wealthy clientele in Sri Lanka and Turkey,” said SSP Kanpur, Anand Deo.

Another arrested agent, Gaurav Mishra, told police that Kaushik had a well-oiled machinery in place and his agents were deployed in hospitals and religious shrines to look for people desperately in need of organs or those willing to play donor. The doctor’s men were linked to technicians and paramedics of hospital’s nephrology department, who would tip them off about patients in need of a kidney. They would trap poor, gullible men and ask them to become donors.

Kaushik would charge over Rs 1.25 crore from a recipient for an offshore kidney transplant. If the recipient agrees to travel to India, he was charged Rs 75 lakh. Mishra claimed that he was aware of at least two donors who were sent to Sri Lanka and Turkey by Dr Ketan on a tourist visa and returned home after their kidneys were removed. Raj Kumar Rao, who was nabbed in connection with the Apollo kidney racket in 2016 and was then on bail, looked after the India operations.

Rao would hold classes of prospective donors at a rented accommodation in Delhi to assuage fears about post-surgery complications. He would give his own example of how a donor can lead a healthy life. “Rigorous training was given to the donors by keeping them at a flat in Delhi. He would train donors to eliminate any suspicion and for them to be able to say that they were voluntarily donating kidneys out of affection for the recipient,” said SHO Naubasta, Samar Bahadur Yadav.

Shailesh Saxena, one among those who were arrested, has worked as a personal secretary of Apollo Hospital doctors for 3-4 years. He used to forge relationship certificates for the donors. He also prepared fake voter ID and Aadhaar cards to substantiate fraudulent relationships between recipients and donors. After the surgery and five-day recovery period, the donors would be sent off in general class train compartments with half or less than half of what they were promised — around Rs 2-3 lakh. It was also reported that Rao used to float advertisements, seeking kidney donors, which had appeared in vernacular newspapers.

Top Delhi hospitals are under the scanner now as it is being suspected that kidneys were removed there. “When the kidney racket in Apollo Hospital (Delhi) came to light a few years ago, the top management of the hospital appointed a high-power internal committee to look into the matter, claiming to be a victim of such a racket and absolving themselves of any blame,” says a doctor who wishes to remain anonymous.

Days before the gang went bust, a poor resident of Lucknow was trapped — Vardan Chandra. Chandra’s fake documents were prepared and he was asked to sell his organ to a patient —Madhukar Goyal. He was promised Rs 4 lakh but received only Rs 2.5 lakh after the transplant. He needed the money to save his daughter’s life who, unfortunately, died before the treatment could begin. Another resident of Lucknow, Ashish Tewari was promised Rs 5 lakh for the kidney transplant. His kidney transplant was done for a patient from Punjab in a Delhi hospital, but he did not receive any money.

More donors are now coming with their complaints to the police, against those who were arrested. Police has served notices to some reputed Delhi hospitals, the names of which were taken during interrogation of the arrested members. The management of these hospitals have been asked to provide a detailed record of kidney transplants in the last few years.

Approximately 4 lakh patients require kidney transplants annually but only 8,500 transplants are done in a year. “The living donors are few and the cadaver donors are even fewer. We need to address the supply and the demand gap by educating people about donating organs, which can increase the number of cadaver donors. More public hospitals need to have transplant facility so that everyone can afford the life-saving procedure, which in private hospitals can cost around Rs 10 lakh,” says Dr Manoj Arora, a nephrologist.