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1991 report on the exploitation of professional blood donors by the blood banking system in India released

4 July 2016

print version of this article print version - 4 July 2016

Subject: ABVA releases digitized version of its report “Blood of the Professionals”

The AIDS Bhedbhav Virodhi Andolan (ABVA) is releasing the digitized version of its report titled “Blood of the Professionals” – a report on the exploitation of professional blood donors by the blood banking system in India. The 31-paged report was prepared by Jagdish Bhardwajee, a professional blood donor in collaboration with ABVA around twenty-five years back in July 1991. The initial transcript was written in longhand in a public library; later it was typed on a mechanical typewriter and photocopies were circulated at a press conference held in July 1991. This is the only report of its kind in India written by a person who was forced to sell blood for a living.

Jagdish Bhardwajee, coming from a middle class background, had hit the pavement in 1981 while at the peak of his personal and professional life. He had suffered huge economic losses in his business and had to dispose off his Greater Kailash-II residence and car in a distress sale. His wife left him along with the only son the couple had. He overcame a spell of severe depression and struggled with his life on the pavement at Jama Masjid, Old Delhi. He found himself amongst people who were forced to earn their livelihood by selling their blood. Later he organized them under the banner of professional blood donors and launched a long agitation at Boat Club – the Hyde Park of Delhi – so that they get better remuneration for a bottle of blood! The organization acquired an all India banner. For about two decades Jagdish himself was selling his blood for a living; at times once a day and even thrice a day on occasions.

In 1990, Jagdish joined ABVA and was actively associated with it for over a decade. This report documents the lives and struggles of professional blood donors in India. In a public interest litigation filed by H.D. Shourie titled Common Cause vs. Union of India and Others [Writ Petition (civil) 91 of 1992], the Supreme Court had inter alia banned professional blood donation. Jagdish had filed an intervention application through advocate Laxmi Kant Pandey urging the court to have a rehabilitation policy for professional blood donors in the event the court was likely to ban professional blood donation. Though the judgement delivered on 4 January, 1996 victimised professional blood donors eventually, Jagdish’s application was not even accepted. However the judgement was shortsighted as it has only resulted in driving the professional blood donors underground making them more vulnerable to exploitation and donating organs like kidney. As late as 27 January, 2015 the BBC reported in its news titled “Blood for sale: India’s illegal ’red market’”:

“The illicit market in blood has simply moved underground, or in some cases, into the realms of the macabre.”

Jagdish Bhardwajee passed away in 2007 in his mid-fifties. He was suffering from diabetes for a number of years but apparently succumbed to chest T.B. No friend or relative could be contacted at the time of his death. The servant working at his place, his landlord and a few community people had taken his body for cremation. This report would not have been possible without him. To quote his own words from the report:

“My personal experience which I have gathered in this field may not have been possible from the world outside the community of professional blood donors. I strongly feel that the knowledge I have so far attained in science, humanity and about the compulsions of poverty creating a professional blood donor, has left no room for any sorrow of my past loss. I feel it to be all in the course of being blessed with such knowledge in this competitive world.”

Read the report here:

AIDS Bhedbhav Virodhi Andolan Email: aidsbhedbhavvirodhiandolan at