The Hari Putar Dialogues - 49
(BBC News ; Delhi ; 13 March : The streets of the Badli Industrial Area in north Delhi are teeming with children. This is the kind of place where migrant families settle, after coming to Delhi to look for work. In a small courtyard on a side street Sangeeta Giri is washing her family's clothes. Her husband Harishankar, a driver, is sitting nearby. It looks like a normal domestic scene, but there's something wrong. Their daughter Sunita went missing last June, two weeks after they arrived in the city.)
Putar: There is a news report carried on the BBC website about a large number of children who have gone missing from the streets fo Delhi in the past year.
Hari: What kind of figures are we talking about?
Putar: According to the official website of the Delhi police, nearly 6,000 children have been reported missing in the city in the last two years.
Hari: Six thousand! That's a large figure.
Putar: Exactly. And only about one in 10 have been found. It's terrible. There is this case of five year old Sunita, who's gone missing. The parents registered Sunita's disappearance with the police on the day she went missing. She's recorded as being 3ft 3in tall, wearing a pink top and shirt, with bare feet.
Hari: Have the police made any headway so far?
Putar: So far nothing. At the local police station, the details of Sunita's case are hand-written in a book. "Pending investigation," it says.
Hari: The parents must be distraught.
Putar: (reads) "We've looked everywhere for her," says the mother. "At bus stops, orphanages, hospitals. We've gone crazy trying to find her.'
Hari: I can imagine a parent's agony.
Putar: (reads) The mother says: "We've even paid money to the police. We just don't know what to do."
HARI; There are too many children involved here for them to have just lost their way. What do the police have to say?
Putar: The police say many missing children have eloped - a suggestion rubbished by campaigners for children's welfare.
Hari: That's nonsense. A five-year-old girl will elope? And so many elopements. They are covering up for their own ineptitude. What is the view of the children's organizations?
Putar: According to Meenakshi Kohli, from the group Child Rights and You: "The child who is missing is being abused in one way or the other. It could be for organ theft; if it's a girl child, it's probably prostitution; trafficking; begging; there are local mafia gangs who abduct children to make money out of them."
Hari: She is right. It's sad but true that children are abused in so many ways. There are children who beg on the streets in Indian cities who are in the clutches of gangs who take all their earnings.
Putar: And some of these gangs even main their bodies so that they can earn more money.
Hari: That's true. Such cruelties must not be tolerated anymore.
Putar: But they are giving way to newer forms of cruelty.
Hari: What do you mean?
Putar: Earlier criminal gangs would send these children out to beg and take their earnings. Now they can remove their body parts and make a lot of money.
Hari: That's certainly possible. There is a recent report that patients from Saudi Arabia are willing to pay as much as 14,000 USD for a kidney. Do you remember that case of a hospital in NOIDA where a patient's kidney was removed when he was under anesthesia?
Putar: I remember. And there is also that unsolved crime of many children missing in NOIDA, some killings and the alleged involvement of a businessman from Chandigarh.
Hari: The trade in body parts is big business. Westerners who need a kidney or other organ can pay any amount.
Putar: Criminals calculate that in the case of child beggars they get a small but regular income, but in the case of body parts they can earn huge amounts.
Hari: In the case of girls they can force them into prostitution and have higher earnings than from an ordinary child beggar, but there too the earnings will be spread over a period of time. In the case of organ trade they get the money straight away.
Putar: In the case of a girl they could even remove a body part and then force her into prostitution.
Hari: It's terrible to think of these things, but they do happen. And these are no longer crimes committed by the lower classes but qualified and greedy doctors and hospitals are often involved.
Putar: Tell me something Papaji?
Hari: Bol, Putar?
Putar: Obama has recently approved stem cell research.
Hari: That's true.
Putar: As a result medical experts say that there may be cures for many diseases in the future such as diabetes, Parkinson's etc.
Hari: That's the forecast.
Putar: On the other hands there are those who have been opposed to stem cell research.
Hari: Yes, they point to a future where it will be possible to grow body parts. There will be factories manufacturing kidneys, livers, gall bladders, etc.
Putar: Sounds very Frankensteinish.
Hari: That's true.
Putar: But if you think of it is that any less Frankensteinish as compared to the removal of body parts from poor people, from patients under anesthesia, and from kidnapped children in the developing world to be sold to rich patients in the West?
Hari: I don't know, Putar.