They targeted villagers who were struggling financially due to the pandemic.
The police in central Assam’s Morigaon district have arrested three people, including a mother and son duo, for allegedly preying on villagers to run a kidney trade racket.
In Dakhin Dharamtul village, about 85 km east of Guwahati, all the victims have either been grappling with COVID-19 restrictions-induced poverty or were desperate to repay microfinance loans that had forced them to sell off most assets.
“We have arrested a woman named Lillimai Boro, her son Mintu Boro and their local contact identified as Ramen Medhi. Investigations are on to catch others involved in the racket,” Morigaon’s Superintendent of Police Aparna Natarajan told The Hindu on July 13.
She said the police have found 10 people in Dakhin Dharamtul village who have been victims of the racket.
“We are trying to find out if more people in this village or around have sold their kidneys,” she added.
The police arrested the mother-son duo on July 11 when the woman visited the village in search of prospective kidney “donors”. The arrest was made on the basis of a complaint by a villager who said he was paid only ₹50,000 instead of the promised ₹6 lakh after he underwent an operation in June to get his organ extracted.
The kidneys of all 10 victims were removed at the Rabindranath Tagore International Institute of Cardiac Sciences in Kolkata, a local police officer said, citing documents with the sellers.
The affected villagers said the accused lured them with the promise of an amount between ₹4 and ₹6 lakh.
Srikanta Das, one of the villagers, said he received ₹3.5 lakh and was promised ₹5 lakh but the mother-son duo took the rest as commission.
“I barely had any income after a series of lockdowns. I needed the money for my son’s treatment,” he said.
Some of the victims said they sold a kidney each to repay the microfinance loans that had already made them sell their movable and immovable assets.
“I received ₹1 lakh less than the promised amount but took it as dealing with the loan recovery agents was becoming unbearable,” she said.
Waiver of microfinance loans taken by women was a major poll promise of the Bharatiya Janata Party. The Himanta Biswa Sarma government later set certain conditions and excluded from the waiver scheme people who pay income tax, have multiple loans, own a four-wheeler and have an annual income of more than ₹1 lakh.
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