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Kidney Trade in Gurgaon, India

by source: and Gurgaon Workers News - 26.02.2008 15:19

GurgaonWorkersNews no.9
February 14, 2008


Newsletter 9 (February 2008)

Gurgaon in Haryana is presented as the shining India, a symbol of capitalist success promising a better life for everyone behind the gateway of development. At a first glance the office towers and shopping malls reflect this chimera and even the facades of the garment factories look like three star hotels. Behind the facade, behind the factory walls and in the side streets of the industrial areas thousands of workers keep the rat-race going, producing cars and scooters for the middle-classes which end up in the traffic jam on the new highway between Delhi and Gurgaon. Thousands of young middle class people lose time, energy and academic aspirations on night-shifts in call centres, selling loan schemes to working-class people in the US or pre-paid electricity schemes to the poor in the UK. Next door, thousands of rural-migrant workers uprooted by the agrarian crisis stitch and sew for export, competing with their angry brothers and sisters in Bangladesh or Vietnam. And the rat-race will not stop; on the outskirts of Gurgaon, Asia's biggest Special Economic Zone is in the making. The following newsletter documents some of the developments in and around this miserable boom region. If you want to know more about working and struggling in Gurgaon, if you want more info about or even contribute to this project, please do so via:

Thoughts on the Gurgaon Kidney Trade and the Medical-Industrial Complex

During the last two years Gurgaon appeared in the international news twice. First in June 2007 when 30 female aborted fetuses were found in a drain near a private clinic. In January 2008 when it became public that a Gurgaon clinic had removed the kidneys of 500 migrant workers for the global organ trade. The fact that both news fit the media's need for commerciable 'scandals'nmight explain the sudden public interest. But what lies behind the scandal? We first briefly summarise the facts on the ‘kidney scandal' and then consider some questions concerning the systemic and ‘unscandalous' elements behind it.

The Kidney Scandal

Mid-January 2008 the media reports about a private clinic in Gurgaon which had, during the last eight to nine years, removed about 500 kidneys from mainly migrant workers for the global organ trade. Most of these workers are very likely to be dead by now. The private clinic was part of a wider web of local clinics, guest houses, international links and good relations to the police. The clinic is situated in DLF Phase I D-5/29, part of a privately developed town-ship. One piece of evidence for the involvement of the police is the fact that already in 1994 the main manager/doctor of the clinic was known to the police as being engaged in organ deals. In 2000 the police officially shut down the clinic in Gurgaon, but business continued anyway. The clients are rich and international, e.g. from Greece, Australia, USA, Dubai. The victims are farmers, day labourers, building workers from Bihar, Uttar and Andrha Pradesh, the usual origins for industrial workers in Delhi's industrial belt. They said that they needed the money to pay off farming debts or to pay dowries or simply to sustain their families. These workers were picked up from street corners, where day labourers are usually picked up for jobs. They were offered ‘a job' and then brought to the clinic. Some of the workers said that they were threatened with violence and death and forced at gun point to give their kidneys. According to media sources the workers were given around 40,000 Rs for their kidney, while the clinic then sold it for 400,000 to 2,000,000 Rs. After a worker went to the police, the clinic was raided, but the main manager must have been warned, as he was able to flee. Just ten days before, Gurgaon police had conducted raids to expose an international kidney transplant racket. It had given the green light to the passport office to give the alleged main manager a duplicate copy of a “lost” passport.
All captured ‘clients' were allowed to leave India without further investigations. After the scandal the victims are now under threat to have ‘broken the law', because organ donation in India is only allowed amongst blood relatives. The government now wants to use the 'scandal' to liberalise the organ trade. It uses the usual arguments: if we do not allow organ trade, there will be a black market and things like in Gurgaon will continue to happen. This 'scandal' is just one side of the capitalist drive to open new markets by opening bodies, be it as source or receivers of ‘new' commodities. In Gurgaon the general ‘body shop' is yet another boom sector.

The Medical-Industrial Complex

If you have a look at the specific industrial composition in Gurgaon you will notice that Gurgaon is an eldorado for bio-technology and the extension of the body market: a constant supply of desperate and cheap bodies from the poor parts of India, dozens of private clinics and medical institutions, dozens of pharmaceutical laboratories of major international companies, a rich career-orientated upper middle-class in need of medical treatment, a pleasant ‘tourism infrastructure', well-established (transport)links to international markets, mafia-type collaboration between the state and the private sector. In the following, a few examples of how medical-industrial complex is developing in Gurgaon:


Ranbaxy is India's biggest pharmaceutical company with a huge research centre in Gurgaon. Recently the company started to collaborate with another pharma-multi GlaxoSmithKline. “Analysts say the move reflects a growing desire on the part of major pharmaceutical companies to tap into India's skills base and also benefit from the lower operating costs in the country. Under a previous alliance agreed in 2003, Ranbaxy carried out early stage chemical tests to take drug leads Glaxo is developing to the stage of candidate selection. Ranbaxy will now take drug candidates to the second stage, or phase II clinical trials, and will also retain the right to co-commercialise the products developed in India. Developing new drugs in India is much cheaper, as the country has a large, inexpensive pool of biotech talent.
(The Independent (London), Feb 7, 2007)

Health battle in Gurgaon

In August this year, when Fortis laid the foundation stone for its multi-superspecialty flagship hospital Fortis Healthcity in Gurgaon, it marked the entrance of another enemy in the already cluttered warzone. With the Apollo Tyre Group-promoted Artemis Health Institute and Max Hospital within a one kilometre radius and Naresh Trehan's ambitious Medicity under construction in the vicinity, Gurgaon is preparing for a battle of sorts between some of the largest healthcare delivery players in the country.
(Radhieka Pandeya / New Delhi November 13, 2007)

Global Health Private Ltd., MediCity, is currently developing a four-million-square-foot, 40-acre facility in Gurgaon, India. This institution, backed by clinical and biotechnology research, will yield medical care to the growing middle class in India. This partnership will facilitate collaborative efforts to enhance healthcare delivery while providing international experience for students. “These Indian companies are unique partners for the University of Utah,” Brittain says. “Their leaders are innovative and eager to bring new medical technologies to their community. Partnering with Indian companies will allow the University to benefit from their expertise and willingness to engage in collaborative research and development. Through this alliance we will be able to accelerate commercialization of University technologies and provide economic benefits to both the United States and India.”
(Economic Times, October 14, 2007)


Triangle clinical research organization INC Research said Thursday it has teamed up with GVK Biosciences in a joint venture to offer clinical trial services in India. Gurgaon, India-based GVK and INC Research have agreed to equal shares in a collaboration that will offer full-service, phase I-IV clinical trials in India for both pharmaceutical and biotechnology customers.
(Financial Express, 24th of March 2007)

Agilent to set up life sciences facility

Agilent Technologies India will concentrate on life sciences and clinical analysis in the state on the back of fast growing pharma and life sciences companies. Agilent Technologies, which will be setting up its first manufacturing facility by 2009 in India at Manesar near Gurgaon, provides measurement sciences in the electronic and bio-analyticals sectors.
(BS Reporter / Mumbai/ Ahmedabad November 06, 2007)

The Daily Scandal

The capitalist production process in Gurgaon consumes bodies on a daily basis, without producing media-worthy 'scandals'. On a daily basis poor labourers die in factories, on construction sites, on the way to or from work. Their deaths are often covered by the very same mechanisms which made the 'kidney trade scandal' possible: victims of industrial accidents are brought to company-friendly doctors, the official administrations turn a blind eye, the victims are victimised once more (see report on industrial accident in newsletter #7). The boundaries between selling body(parts), risking your life on the job and selling your labour power become blurry - once selling your labour power means working 12 to 14 hours daily for a wage which hardly allows you to reproduce the lost energy. The media likes to emphasise that the labourers were 'forced at gun point' to have their bodies been ripped open. This is due not only to the media's eagerness for violent stories. It is also a way to avoid the question why people might have to chose one form of self-destruction - selling body parts - over another form of self-destruction - industrial wage labour.