They could guess something was amiss from the suspicious conduct of some residents of their village over the past 4-5 years, but they were unable to figure out what it was about. Then, over the past year or so, they began hearing loud whispers that some villagers had sold off their kidneys.
“Our queries went abegging till we heard recently that a woman would be visiting the village to finalise deals for kidney donation with some residents,” recounts Minu Das, secretary of the Village Defence Party (VDP) of Dakhin Dharamtul village in Morigaon district, about 80 km from Guwahati. “We apprehended her when she arrived on July 10,” she said.
The arrest of Lilima Bodo led to the arrest of three others, revealing a thriving, illegal trade in kidneys in the area. Aggrieved donors, who alleged they had been shortchanged, also started narrating their tales — first the deal, then documentation establishing relationship with the recipient, and finally the journey to Kolkata to go under the scalpel and part with a kidney.
Morigaon SP Aparna Natarajan said 11 people, including a woman, had donated kidneys so far. “We have asked for relevant documents from the state committee that gives go-ahead to donors for the transplant, and the investigation will proceed accordingly,” she said. Donors themselves are guilty of misrepresentation before the committee, she also said, adding, “But then, they are victims too, and will be our witnesses. They are poor and fell prey to temptation.” Krishna Das had sold off a kidney to repay a bank loan she had taken to run her family with her long-ailing husband. She was not given the promised amount, though. “They promised me Rs 4.5 lakh, but gave only Rs 3.5 lakh,” she said.