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Kidney sale appeal to raise ‘blood money’

- Six AP women seek permission for illegal organ donation to free husbands from Dubai jail
The six women who have moved the Andhra rights panel. Picture by G Vijayalakshmi

Hyderabad, Nov. 19: Six village women have applied to the state human rights commission for permission to sell their kidneys so they can raise “blood money” to free their husbands, jailed in Dubai for rioting that claimed a life.

Kidney sale is banned in India and permission has been denied. But the incident underlines how the state’s debt-ridden farmers continue to look to illegal organ donation as their only hope out of distress — a situation that has spawned a racket in Hyderabad’s hospitals that exploits the poor donors.

The rights panel has nudged the state and central governments after receiving the petition last week, just as Andhra Pradesh High Court did a few months ago after rejecting a similar writ petition from the women.

“But nobody has come forward to help us,” said D. Padma. So, she and the other five women have been camping in Hyderabad, 180km from their homes in Karimnagar district, talking to hospitals and organ-donation touts.

Even if their plans succeed, however, the “cuts” the touts and hospital staff will take would leave the women with only about half the Rs 15 lakh they want to raise.

The women have been tested at hospitals and told “only four of us can donate kidneys”, said one of them, Rajavva. Usually, the recipients’ families pay Rs 7 lakh per kidney but the poor and uneducated donors end up receiving Rs 2 lakh or less.

The women’s only hope is an assurance from their local MLA that if they raise some of the money, he would contribute the rest.

The six women belong to peasant families from the Dalit Vaddara community. Their husbands migrated to Dubai in 2003 to work as construction labourers after four years of crop failure because of drought.

Shortly before they were to return home in 2007, they were arrested along with four migrant Pakistani labourers in connection with a street riot that killed a Nepali guard.

“Since no Telugu-speaking lawyers were available there, they did not have a proper defence. While the Pakistanis got off with two-and-a-half-year terms, the Telugu labourers got 15 to 24-year sentences,” said M. Bhim Reddy of the NGO Migrants Rights Council, who wrote the women’s petition to the rights panel.

He said that under Dubai law, a murdered victim’s legal heirs can pardon the convicts against “blood money”, a deal the Nepali guard’s wife has agreed to.

The rights panel has issued notices to the chief secretary and the state’s ministry of overseas Indian affairs, asking for reports by January 17. “No decision has yet been taken about granting the money,” minister D. Sridhar Babu said.

“We don’t have the money even to feed our children. Our appeals to the state and central governments have brought no response. So, please allow us to sell our kidneys,” said D. Padma, wife of Laxman.

The other five women are: Sivaratri Rajavva (wife of S. Mallesh), S. Rena (S. Ravi), Ellavva (Nampelli Venkati), S. Padma (S. Hanumanthu) and Reshma (Syed Kareem).

Reddy said the Kerala and Punjab governments and some philanthropists had provided financial aid in a similar case. Under Indian law, someone can donate a kidney only if they can prove to a government-appointed panel that the donation is free — a difficult proposition that makes grant of permission rare.

A patient’s best hope, therefore, is to get a kidney from a family member who can plead the donation is based on emotional attachment. But the catch is, the kidney may not be compatible. This is where the racketeers come in.

To beat the racket, “kidney chains” have come up in some states such as Kerala. They practise “paired exchange”, where A’s wife donates her kidney to B while B’s husband donates his to A (if the paired kidneys are incompatible).