On Monday I had a chance to get a sneak peek at the inner workings of law enforcement in Chennai. I was tracking down the story on the organized mob of kidney brokers that have been preying on poor people in chennai for the last 13 years and I was at the Crime Branch Central Investigation Department office in Thenampeyt speaking to the superintendent of police about how they are going to charge the three alleged brokers that they have in custody. While the brokers are clearly in violation of the Transplantation of Human Organs Act (1994) they claimed that they were not empowered to prosecute the brokers under it. The police instead are opting to charge the men only with forgery. To charge them under the act the superintendent told me that only Bava Fathurudeen, the Director of Medical Services was empowered by the government.

So 20 minutes later I was in Fathurudeen’s office asking him about what his department was doing to prosecute the kidney brokers. The act reads that anyone caught selling organs, offering organs, advertising for organs, operating as a broker, or makes and financial transaction that offers cash for kidneys is punishable for between two and seven years in prison.

But Fathurudeen didn’t seem to know that. Instead he said that his division was busy investigating hospitals across the state and hadn’t even heard that the police had a few brokers in custody. In fact, when I told him that news reports are claiming that over 500 people have had their kidney taken by brokers he was a little shocked. “Really, that many?” he asked. Apparently the only people keeping on top of the investigation are the bloggers and reporters covering the case. The authorities just seem like they want it all to go away.

In addition to not really knowing what is going on, Fathurudeen’s incoherency extended into his own quixotic and confused way of talking. He was unsure of his words and at least three times during the interview crept–yes, crept–into a back office to confer with his office assistants about what to say. When he came back to speak with me he continued to stutter and looked to other people around him for answers. Incidentally, his secretaries looked quite competent. I have a feeling that they are the ones running the show.

It seems that while I have been able to track down multiple brokers simply by interviewing women who had their kidneys taken, no one in law enforcement seem to be taking the necessary steps to prosecute the crime. Instead, kidney sales are becoming defacto-legal.

I have a story coming out about this tomorrow in Wired News where I reveal just how complicit the government really is. Later in the month I should have a series of articles about the kidney racket.

Photo: Bava Fathurudeen has been blindsided by this case.