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Last Updated: Tuesday, 16 January 2007, 15:56 GMT
Tsunami victims 'selling kidneys'
BY TN Gopalan
BBC News, Madras

Tamil Nadu fishermen
Many fishermen say they cannot make ends meet
The government in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu has launched an inquiry into reports of the sale of kidneys by the families of poor fishermen.

Local newspapers say that a number of fishermen's wives in the state have been forced to sell their kidneys because of financial pressures.

Those selling their kidneys are believed to have been displaced by the tsunami of December 2004.

Kidney sales are prohibited in India, but donations by relatives are allowed.

Deep distress

While analysts say that the rehabilitation of tsunami survivors has generally been satisfactory in Tamil Nadu, for some the pace has been relatively slow.

Displaced fishermen have been put up in temporary camps which in places are some distance from the sea.

Tsunami devastation in Nagappattinam
Much of Tamil Nadu's fishing fleet was destroyed in the tsunami

That adds to their transportation costs and means they have less time in their vessels.

The construction of permanent houses closer to the coast line is way behind the schedule earlier announced by the government.

In some families, where the men folk have suffered permanent injuries from the tsunami, women are forced to bear the brunt of running the household. Many of these families say they are now in deep distress.

Now the women in these families are resorting to selling their kidneys.

A few have already done so, and others say they intend to follow suit.

Fishermen's families living in a temporary camp near Madras told the BBC they had no other way of offsetting a financial crisis.


Aid groups working in the area say at least 50 people may have sold away their kidneys so far, and many more are waiting in the queue.

The District Magistrate in Madras, R Jaya, told the BBC's Tamil service that the trend was disturbing, particularly when the government had gone all out to provide relief to all tsunami survivors.

Tamil Nadu map

She said the government was collecting the details of all such illegal kidney sales.

She said new initiatives targeting tsunami-stricken families were now on the cards.

Kidney sales by poor people have been reported in the past, but this is the first time that tsunami survivors are reported to have been lured into the trade.

A human kidney can fetch a price of 100,000 Indian rupees (around $2,200), but sellers get only 50% of that money - intermediaries are believed to walk away with the rest.

Although doctors say some people can lead a relatively normal life with just a single kidney, it is an area fraught with medical complications.

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10 May 98 |  S/W Asia

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