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Organ Donation: Religious Leaders Need To Take Lead To Tackle Misconceptions, Says Alok Kumar

Alok Kumar, the patron of NGO Dadhichi Deh Dan Samiti, told Outlook that they have reached out to religious leaders like Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, Sadhvi Rithambara, Morari Bapu, and Lokesh Muni, and all of them have supported organ donation.

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Alok Kumar, the patron of NGO Dadhichi Deh Dan Samiti
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Dadhichi Deh Dan Samiti is a New Delhi-based non-government organisation (NGO) that spreads awareness about donation of organs, such as eyes and stem cells, by motivating people to take pledges. The NGO has been executing these pledges since 1997. 

On 3 September, Dadhichi Deh Dan Samiti organised Swasth Sabal Bharat Conclave at which more than 60 NGOs, including an association of doctors, deliberated on the National Campaign for Body Organs Donation.

Outlook spoke to Alok Kumar, the Patron of Dadhichi Deh Dan Samiti, about the organisation and its work. Excerpts:

From where did the inspiration for Dadhichi Deh Dan Samiti come?

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I used to live in Amritsar back then. I once visited a government medical college. They took me to show a museum of anatomy. The first exhibit was a human skeleton. And below that skeleton, there was a note by the head of the anatomy department, Dr. Virk: “In my whole life, I taught my students on unclaimed bodies. This is my last wish that after my death, my body be donated to this college for the education of students.” 

I was inspired by this noble idea. I decided that I would do something about this. I also exchanged letters with Dr. Harsh Vardhan, who was studying in Kanpur at that time and served as Union health and family welfare minister from 2019-21.

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When the Transplantation of Human Organs Act (THOA), 1994, passed, a group of us pledged to donate our bodies. In 1997, on the birth anniversary of Nanaji Deshmukh, a former Rajya Sabha member and leader of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), we started this organisation as a committee.

Through Dadhichi Deh Dan Samiti, we not only register, or create awareness, we also facilitate body donation after the death of a person. Currently, we work only in the National Capital Region (NCR), but we want a nationwide movement around it.

There is a lot of misinformation around body donation and organ donation. Some of these are religious. How do you view it?

To tackle blind beliefs around organ donation, it is needed that religious leaders take the lead. We met a few big religious figures like Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, Sadhvi Rithambara, Morari Bapu, and Lokesh Muni. All of them supported this idea. They said that donating a body would provide forgiveness for many evil deeds. We have put these clips on YouTube.

Due to these efforts, many superstitions and blind beliefs are being destroyed, and people are coming forward to donate.

India is far behind in both body donation and organ donation. What challenges do you see? 

I believe that we are able to address these challenges. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has requested people to donate organs in his radio programme Mann Ki Baat. The government is also working on strengthening health Infrastructure. So, I believe, there will be a positive change.

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It is often said that our health infrastructure is not that strong. To promote organ donation, what we can do about India’s health infrastructure?

There are two things. First, eye banks are not available in small towns. After death, eyes must be donated within four hours. If the eye bank is more than four hours away, it will not be possible to donate eyes. Every district needs to have an eye bank. Every division should have transplantation facilities and enough ambulances.

Let me give you an example. In Delhi, there is a skin-donation center. But to donate skin, people have to take the body of a deceased person to the center. Most people don’t do that. In places where ambulances are available, donations happen very smoothly. So, these infrastructure facilities need to be improved.

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Second, in some places, there are facilities and infrastructure, but the people responsible are not fulfilling their duties. When someone calls them and informs them that they want to donate organs, these people elaborate upon the difficulty in execution.

If someone is willing to donate, they should be respected.

Many NGOs say that laws around organ donation create hurdles. What are your thoughts?

I don’t believe so. There is a need to have a balance. First, there should not be any illegal trade of organs. Second, there should not be any hurdles in the organ donation process. The current system may look tough. But to ensure that organs are not traded, this law is good. I consider these laws balanced.

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