Tehelka Magazine, Vol 5, Issue 24, Dated June 21, 2008
Kept in a slum,
fed twice a day, and their blood extracted thrice a week — in Gorakhpur,
scores of unsuspecting men succumb to a network of modern-day vampires
IT HAD BEEN a bad
spell for Madhubani painter Hari Kamat, and it was about to get worse.
Having had almost no sales for a year, he left his village in Bihar to
look for a job and ended up in Gorakhpur, 200 km from Lucknow. He was
offered a job as soon as he stepped down from the bus. Two months later,
he was fired for no apparent reason. Local “friends” told him they would
get him another and better job — all he had to do was go for a blood test.
When the results returned, he was told the quality of his blood was so
good he needn’t look for regular employment, but could make a living selling
his blood, earning somewhere between Rs 500-1000 per unit.
Hari had no way of knowing he was about
to fall victim to a well-organised blood trade
centred around Gorakhpur’s numerous private
hospitals and clinics. A short while later, he
was to find himself along with 16 others — 25-
to 40-year-old men from across north India —
imprisoned in a slum in Shahpur, two km from
the Baba Raghav Das (BRD) Medical College.
For two-and-a-half years, the men were kept
there, fed twice a day, and made to give blood
thrice a week. Protest was impossible — the
constant depletion of their blood had made
them too weak.
The racket was exposed on April 16, when
the police raided a house in Chorpuwa slum
where one of the victims had been severely
thrashed for trying to escape. “It was like a
dairy where cows and buffaloes are milked
twice a day in return for fodder,” says Gorakhpur
Cantonment Circle Officer
Viswajeet Srivastava, who is in
charge of the case. “The victims
told us they had voluntarily
sold their blood in the beginning,
but later they had been confined
and their blood forcibly extracted.
They also said that instead of
the Rs 500 per day they had
been promised, they were paid
only Rs 150.”
Ten people involved in the racket have been arrested so far, including Pappu Yadav,
in whose house the victims were kept. Jayant
Sarkar, who did all the networking with the clinics
and the nursing homes, is still absconding.
“All the victims had haemoglobin levels less
than 4g/dl as against the 15g/dl found in a normal
adult male,” says Dr Suresh Mishra of the
Civil Hospital where the rescued were admitted.
Among them was Durga Prasad who
weighed only 21 kilos when he was found. Raju
Mohanti, whose blood group is the rare A negative,
says his blood was extracted
16 times a month. According to
Red Cross norms, an adult can donate blood
not more than once in two months. Ramu
Sahu, a graduate from Patna University was
told he would be paid Rs 200 a day. Like Rustam
Khan, who wanted to raise money for his
daughter’s wedding, he now knows only too
well the depth of how he was duped.
A couple of lab assistants trained in blood
transfusion, lower-level hospital staff, touts and
local goons comprised this gang that made its
living selling the blood of its unemployed
and/or illiterate victims. They tracked migrant
labourers and job aspirants at the railway and
bus stations, and got them temporary jobs to
make their goodwill seem genuine. After a
month or two, they would get them fired and
lure them into selling their blood. Meanwhile, a
web of touts around the city’s major hospitals,
including the BRD Medical College, Star Nursing
Home, Civil Hospital and Anandlok hospital,
kept track of patients in dire need of blood.
According to Srivastava, “After a sale, the
touts would direct the relatives to take the
blood to Mahanagar Diagnostic Centre. There
the blood received a stamp, legalising the illegal
practice, something the patients’ attendants
fail to notice in their hurry to obtain the blood.”
TEHELKA went undercover to Gorakhpur,
with its correspondent posing as the relative of
a patient who had met with a grave accident.
Speaking to a guard at the BRD Medical College,
we were told we could buy blood outside
Star Nursing Home. When we claimed our
inability to do so, he agreed to
arrange a unit of blood for Rs 1,200 “on humanitarian grounds”, as
opposed to the Rs 96 that is the
THE GUARD later took us to
a middle-aged tout, who
called up a person he addressed
as Master, apparently a
known name in the circle (see
box for transcript). We were able
to contact Master later, and got
to know that he was an ambulance driver. He
told us that all four of his “boys” were underground
that day because the health minister
was visiting the city, but that he would be able
to sell us a unit the next morning.
|Nabbed Pappu Yadav, owner of the house where the victims were forcibly kept,
is arrested Photo: Abhinav Chaturvedi
When we asked Dr Lalit Mohan, the principal
of BRD Medical College, the reason why
the blood trade flourishes so unabashedly on
his campus, he refused any responsibility. “My
job is to take action on a complaint, and I
haven’t received any. I have thousands of things
to do. I have managed to ban paan and bidis
in the hospital, what more can I do?”
According to the World Health Organisation,
the blood requirement in any area is at
least one percent of the total population. Every
year, 6.1 million units of blood are collected in
India as against the actual requirement of 8.5
million units. In Gorakhpur, with just seven
blood banks for a city of three million, the
shortage of blood is inevitable. This is exacerbated
by Gorakhpur’s unusual proliferation of
private hospitals, attributed to its proximity to
Bihar and Nepal, both of which have dismal
medical facilities. With patients flocking here
from across the region, the blood
requirement increases astronomically,
making Gorakhpur the hub of
the illegal blood trade in the
country. Further, the growth of
private medical facilities here
has been completely unaccounted
Says Dr RP Verma, Gorakhpur’s
chief medical officer, “In
2004, a government circular was
issued requiring all hospitals and
nursing homes to get registered.
Their owners, however, protes -
ted, saying they were already registered under
the Indian Medical Association. After a stay
order, all registrations have literally stopped,
leaving the administration without any exact
figures of the number of private nursing homes
in the city.” Hence, no daily records of transfusions
are maintained, and there is no scope
for a government audit since the records
maintained by the blood banks are independent
of any scrutiny.
With a highly decentralised
blood transfusion service in India, stand-alone private blood banks are
proliferating in the country. While Hari Kamat and his fellow captives
have returned to their homes, thousands remain whose fate at the hands
of India’s medical vampires will never be known.
buy the blood, you’ll have to pay Rs 1,000 to 1,200’
staff of both government and private hospitals play a key part in
the thriving blood trade
Baba Raghav Das Medical College, Gorakhpur.
|Spycam grabs Tout and the guard
We need a bottle of blood.
You can get it outside Star Nursing Home in Gorakhpur. You’ll get
it when you give blood to them in return.
What if we can’t give the blood?
Then you won’t get it.
Please help us, it’s very important.
Let me find out. It is difficult.
We need it urgently.
Who needs it?
Where is he?
In the hospital. He had an accident.
In Gorakhnath? Then you can get the blood outside Star Nursing Home.
You’ll get it for a thousand rupees… on humanitarian grounds.
Please tell us some place here where we can get it soon. We don’t
have much time.
What did the doctor there say?
That we can get blood in Medical College here.
How will you get it here? Yesterday, a patient wanted it here. So
four people were called in the night. Only then could he get five
bottles. If the doctor would have done it, he would have been fired.
Didn’t you ask the doctors?
The doctors get angry.
You can get it outside Star Nursing Home but you will
have to buy it.
I can buy but I need it urgently.
You stay here, let me talk (Goes inside a ward and calls another
man, a tout.)
She needs blood.
You can’t get it like this. You must be knowing these days...
It is very important.
You’ll have to spend money.
I will pay.
You will get it then.
I need it now.
You will get it if the place is open.
See, you will get it. We people are not like that. You will have
to spend money. Lots of money.
At least Rs 1,000-1,200. Do you have a mobile? (Takes our cellphone
and dials a number)
Hello, I want to speak to Master. I am calling from Medical. Hello…
Is that Master bhaiyya? Please wake him up... Hello bhaiyya, Ram-Ram.
There is a requirement here of blood, what to do? Hey, how many
bottles do you need?
One unit…yes. There is somebody here in dire need. A girl has come.
Her brother needs it... You will get the money… I will not bring
her along. I will come alone. In the meantime, you catch hold of
somebody… Bring that boy, he owes me Rs 700. I usually take Rs 400...
The blood is needed right now… The rest can be managed — bottle
(alcohol) and the fare. The other calculations can be done later
but please catch hold of one of the boys… He’s not here today?…
They’ve gone to the fair? Aren’t they available today?… When will
the blood be available then? Around 10 or 11? Okay, then I will
call you around 10-11.
Where will we get it? Can we go there?
You won’t be able to get it today. The boys who give it have gone
to the fair.
Talk to somebody else.
We just have these three four guys, and they’ve gone to the fair...
If you are ready to give blood in exchange, you can get a bottle
for just Rs 70.
I can’t give any blood.
If you want to buy it you will have to pay Rs 1,000-1,200. Once
I arranged a deal for Rs 1,800… I have spoken to Master. He will
get back to me.
But I need it today.
How can that be? The boys are not here today. They are the eating-drinking
types — once they travel to the city, they don’t do any other work.
This is their only occupation.
Can’t you get it for us today?
Give us his number.
His number is there in your cellphone.
day, Master kept calling, offering to sell the blood)