Sinister and macabre. With kidnapping old people, starving them to the point of deprivation and eventually death, that is exactly how Tamil Nadu’s shocking case of bone trafficking can be described.
St. Joseph’s hospice in Palaswaram village, called itself as ‘A home for dying destitutes’. When you look at the hospice’s website or their many videos, it appears to be a tranquil place with humanitarian intentions, caring for their many inmates. But in recent days, it was discovered that this hospice is very different from the rest. Firstly, it takes in only people from other cities. The locals are not admitted in, nor they work there. And once admitted, no one comes out, not even their dead bodies.
Run by one Father Thomas, this hospice had been carrying out one of the most gruesome and heinous cases of bone trafficking. Backed by the caretakers and the people running it, it is estimated that around 1590 people have died there in the past with 60 deaths alone in January.
The incident came to light when a motorist heard screams of a woman from a truck. On hearing the screams of the woman, the motorist stopped the vehicle to check on her. Seeing two old people held up against their will along with a corpse, the motorist called for the police. The old woman who was identified as Annamal said that when she left her home after a fight with her kin, the people from the old-age home took her there. They promised to take care of her. The woman, however, found it suspicious on seeing dead bodies and said she wanted to leave. “I begged them, but I wasn’t allowed to go,” she said. On further investigation, it was found that they were being transferred from the Tambaram branch of St. Joseph’s hospice to the one in the remote village of Palaswaram.
The reports from the investigation claim that sick and elderly people who are left alone, especially those from other places are brought to the hospice – some with fake assurances and some forcibly. Tortured and starved to death, the people are not given a proper burial. Instead, the bodies of the dead are sealed in a building with multi-tier vaults with a tube-like setup for about three months. After the fluids from the decomposed bodies flow out, the bones are taken out for trade to foreign countries. The vaults are then used again.
Locals and rescued elderly inmates are coming out with harrowing stories of mistreatment and confinement by the institution.The people are being taken care of, to cure the mental trauma they went through.
The racket was a well planned one. They did not admit any of the locals or people with any relatives. Most of the people there were above the age of 70 who lived in poverty along the roadsides and did not have anyone to take care of them. With a white truck made to look like an ambulance, they had been kidnapping people without raising any suspicion.
Father Thomas, who ran the hospice told the media that no inmate was held against their wish and was free to go. However, he remains silent on the other allegations.
This was supposedly going on for about seven years. The people in the village have had suspicions about the frequently dying people and raised complaints about the same. But to what extent steps were taken to find this out, is still unknown.
But, the most surprising thing is there have been no debates either in the media or among the various political parties, on such a serious issue. What could possibly be stopping them?