How India is bleeding itself dry

A public interest litigation case in the Supreme Court lays bare the reality of blood transfusions in India

On 3 February, the Supreme Court issued notices in response to a public interest litigation case, or PIL, filed by the Association of Rural Surgeons of India, or ARSI. Theirs was a plea to regulate blood banks and revise guidelines created by the National Blood Transfusion Council, which oversees India’s National Blood Policy.

What isn’t is the case, which has been two and a half years in the making and garrisoned with stark data. One would be a fool not to hear the matter. The plea claims that India has less than three blood banks per one million people.

Stark data makes good news, so India’s blood crisis is no stranger to headlines. Days after the Supreme Court heard ARSI’s petition, reports surfaced about the transfusion of infected and mismatched blood in Phagwara, Punjab. Stories abound about the black market for blood, about the poor who are farmed for the elixir in their veins, and about shortages in India’s busiest metro.

But through its 138 pages, “Association of Rural Surgeons of India & Ors vs. Union Of India & Ors”—a copy of which we have—highlights the extent of the rot by focusing on granular details instead of just a macro picture. Those two and a half years spent on the plea weren’t for nothing. Sneha Mukherjee, the advocate representing ARSI, underlines their most important finding: India’s blood deficit isn’t 31%, which the government claims.

It’s upwards of 97%.

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