Intensifying investigations into a kidney transplantation racket involving government officials and major hospitals in the city, the Ramanagara district police detained a few more persons for questioning on Thursday.

They are part of a kidney sale network thriving in and around Bangalore. A senior police officer, part of the investigation team, said the detentions were made based on information provided by a tout, Srikanth from Ramnagar. Preliminary investigations have revealed that Srikanth had been running this racket for the past five years.

The Kumbalgod police, who suo motu registered a complaint on Wednesday, said they were on the lookout for the donors and the recipients to make them party to the case. The police, while looking at the tout angle, are also probing the involvement of major hospitals, the role of Food and Civil Supplies Department officials who helped create fake documents, and jurisdiction police officials who verified the documents.

The victims hail from financially weaker sections and are spread across Mandya, Ramanagara and Bangalore districts. In many cases, they have not received even the promised sum of Rs. 1.5 lakh, though up to Rs. 20 lakh was charged for each illegal transplant.

The Hindu’s independent investigations in Mandya district have revealed that the racket is indeed thriving in rural pockets and villages here. For instance, at Halebudunuru here, the organised racket involves several women “donating” their kidneys to recipients, mostly from Bangalore.

All of them had their surgeries performed in leading multispeciality hospitals in the city. In every instance, the donors testified before a committee and claimed to be willing donors or “well-wishers” of people, who they had never met until the “deal” was fixed. The price of a kidney ranged from Rs. 70,000 to Rs. 3 lakh, depending on the “gullibility or extent of poverty of the donor,” residents said.

Parallel committees

The amendments brought to the Transplantation of Human Organs Act 1994 in 2008 that permit the setting up of hospital-based authorisation committees have loosened the regulatory regime in Karnataka. This could be one of the reasons for the surge in kidney transplants, doctors here believe.

While there is a State Authorisation Committee appointed by the Karnataka government, the new rules permit the setting up of hospital-based panels if a transplantation centre exceeds 25 operations a year. Three private hospitals in Bangalore — Manipal Hospitals, Columbia Asia and Narayana Hrudayalaya — have their own committees.

While the heads of these institutions claim that the committees are appointed by the State government, they also have doctors from the hospital with two nominees from the government.

This, sources said, is an easy method of loosening the process of approving transplants. The much abused Section 9 (3) of the Act, which permits unrelated transplants if it can be proved that the donor does this out of “affection and attachment,” and not for monetary considerations, is also proving disastrous, the sources said.