It has been a year since Sunder Singh gave away his right kidney ‘illegally’ in a transplant, and the 24-year-old has been job hunting since. “I cannot handle heavy weight or do laborious work. Getting work has become difficult,” the frail man says as he steps out of his friend’s shop in Grant Road, his home for a few days now. In July 2016, Singh was one of the people who alleged that an illegal kidney racket was operating at Dr L H Hiranandani Hospital in Powai.
At the same hospital on April 16 last year, he had sold his kidney to a Gujarat-based woman while posing as her brother. The hospital subsequently lost its licence to conduct organ transplants and seven doctors attached with the hospital, including CEO Dr Sujit Chatterjee, were named in the chargesheet. Singh claims he was promised work and money by several politicians but has received neither. He claims he was promised Rs 3 lakh for the transplant but got only Rs 10,000. It was the meagre amount that forced him to expose the racket.
“But even the police have interviewed me just once. I have so much evidence. They never considered catching the other accused,” Singh alleges. A year after the racket was busted, police are yet to investigate other allegedly illegal transplants held at the same hospital. This week, the state public health department issued a notice to Powai police asking them to present other donors and recipients in the illegal transplants for investigation.
“As government officials, we can only present medical evidence of the illegal transplant. For that we need the police to get other donors and recipients,” says Dr Gauri Rathod, state organ transplant coordinator. In the past one year, Singh claims he has received several threat calls. He always looks over his shoulder while walking on the road. “I switched off my phone and went back to my village for three months. I was scared for my life. I still am,” he says.
Unpaid family loans forced him to return to Mumbai last week to find work. Unable to afford rent, he sent his wife back to their village Piprikala in Uttar Pradesh and started living in a friend’s shop in search of employment. With one kidney gone, he suffers constant abdominal pain and sometimes lose motions. He has visited Bandra Bhabha Hospital thrice for treatment since he donated his kidney.
“Now, I have stopped thinking about the constant pain or that I was fooled into selling my kidney,” he says. “I have to repay a debt of Rs 3 lakh and I have two mentally challenged brothers who cannot work. I have to feed four stomachs and there is no job. That is my only worry.” He has approached several video parlours for work in Mumbai. His last job, at Dreamland video parlour on Grant Road, was the reason why he agreed to sell his kidney.
His employer, Bharat Sharma, also an accused in the chargesheet, convinced him that this was the quickest way to repay all his debts. After the transplant, Singh was employed by alleged kidney racket kingpin Bijendra Bisen. He tasked Singh with transportation of documents necessary for illegal kidney transplants and of coordinating between patients and poor donors.
In the past year, Singh has had no contact with his kidney’s recipient, 37-year-old Dimple Himmatramka. Medical documents scrutinised by the Directorate of Health Services showed that there were several discrepancies in the documentation filed by donor Singh and recipient Himmatramka. However, permission was granted by the hospital. “There needs to be the will to catch more culprits so that others are not fooled into selling their kidney,” Singh says.