No excuses need to be given to the poor. Their children can be picked off the streets, slaughtered or battered to death, and the remains flung away in gunny bags. The grown-ups can be lured by promises of a job, sedated and made to part with their organs without even a polite exchange of words on the matter. The zero value attached to the lives of the poor is what inspires serial killers like those in Nithari or organ-sellers like those in Gurgaon to dare their misadventures. The same attitude among the law-enforcers is what allows them to go about their dirty jobs with such ease. Like the butchers of Nithari, the kingpin of the kidney racket busted in Gurgaon had been apprehended by the police before. That must have proved to be a learning experience. The unscrupulous doctor not only managed to carry on with his ‘practice’ for years despite his brush with the law, but he also succeeded in giving the police a slip again and fleeing with the incriminating documents.
Notwithstanding the superior skills of the surgeon, the Gurgaon racket has been quite ham-handed in comparison to the finesse with which such operations are usually conducted in India. Although most of it is clandestine, the buying and selling of organs often take place within the ambit of the relevant law — the Transplantation of Human Organs Act 1994 — which debars commercial dealings but allows transplants to occur with the sanction of the donor and the permission of the authorized committee. Neither is too difficult to obtain when poverty of one party and the greed of another make common cause. Donors — like the scores of fishermen in Tamil Nadu who survived the Tsunami but found government indifference to their rehabilitation more devastating — willingly sign away their intrinsic right to their body. They complain only when they find themselves cheated of the promised monetary compensation. That is also when the transaction becomes “illegal” and thereby visible, forcing the State to wake up to the powerlessness of a people empowered by a democratic constitution to make their own choices. For the poor, the choice is often between life and death. It is unfortunate that even after six decades of preaching freedom and innumerable operations against racketeers, the Indian State has been unable to expand the range of choices available to a majority of its citizens.