Arvi, Wardha: Twelve skulls and 54 bones buried in a biogas chamber, a sonography machine with an expired licence, piles of ultrasound forms without any clear reason for conducting a sonography, over 70,000 expired contraceptive pills, and a wealthy family of doctors related to former Congress MP Jagjivanrao Kadam.
This is the story of Kadam Hospital, a gynaecology clinic in Arvi, a small town in Maharashtra’s Wardha district, which is now at the centre of what the police are suspecting to be an illegal abortion racket.
The controversy first came to light on 9 January this year when the parents of a 13-year-old girl registered a complaint with the Wardha district police, alleging that the parents of the 17-year-old boy who impregnated their daughter threatened them to get the foetus aborted. The girl was nearly 22 weeks pregnant, and doctors at the Kadam Hospital allegedly aborted her foetus on 6 January, police sources told ThePrint.
The Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Act, 1971, allows for abortions up to 24 weeks into the pregnancy. All pregnancies up to 20 weeks require a doctor’s approval, but abortions between 20 and 24 weeks of pregnancy are permitted only in special circumstances, such as pregnancy due to rape or incest, and require the approval of two doctors.
The Arvi police station registered an FIR under various sections of the Indian Penal Code related to rape on a minor, voluntarily causing a woman to miscarry, disappearance of evidence, wrongful restraint and criminal intimidation, among others, as well as sections of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act. All sections imposed are non-bailable offences.
The police have arrested six accused so far. This includes Dr Niraj Kadam, the head gynaecologist at the hospital and the grandson of Jagjivanrao Kadam, his gynaecologist wife Dr Rekha Kadam, two nurses of the Kadam Hospital and the parents of the boy who impregnated the 13-year-old.
Locals from Arvi told ThePrint that Kadam Hospital is among the oldest in the town and was established in the 1970s. The hospital is owned by Kumar Singh Kadam, Jagjivanrao’s son.
The family, which lives in the same building as the hospital, occupying the top two floors, is known to be a wealthy family of doctors, with Kumar Singh working as a paediatrician, and his wife Shailaja, son and daughter-in-law all gynaecologists.
Dr Nandkishor Kolhe, who has worked with Dr Niraj Kadam at Wardha’s sub-district level government hospital, told ThePrint that the family name was well-respected. “Ever since he joined us, patients from around 150 villages around Arvi started coming to the hospital hearing of his fame. That is why it is difficult to understand why he did what he allegedly did,” Kolhe said.
ThePrint sought to reach Dr Kumar Kadam and Dr Shailaja Kadam for a comment but they weren’t in Arvi. According to the police, the Kadams are currently in Nagpur where Dr Shailaja Kadam is reportedly under medication due to complaints of chest pain.
Boy’s family ‘paid’ Rs 30,000 for ‘illegal abortion’
From what the police has pieced together in its investigation so far, on 6 January, the minor girl, who belongs to the Gowari tribal community, was brought to the hospital and Dr Rekha Kadam performed the abortion, despite not being authorised to do so.
Rekha’s mother-in-law, Dr Shailaja Kadam, has a licence to officially terminate medical pregnancy up to 12 weeks.
Dr Asha Mirge, a member of the state advisory board of the Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques Act, 1994, told ThePrint, “Ideally under the MTP Act, abortion till 20 weeks is allowed. Here at the Kadam Hospital, Shailaja Kadam was licensed to do abortion till 12 weeks only. But, the girl was 22 weeks pregnant and Rekha had no licence to abort.”
According to one of the aunts of the girl, her parents worked as labourers and the girl had issues with her speech.
“She started talking just a year ago, and couldn’t speak clearly. Initially her parents did not know about the pregnancy. They found out because she was complaining of a stomach ache for which they took her to a local clinic,” the aunt told ThePrint.
“The parents say the boy’s parents threatened them, saying they will defame the family in the society unless the girl gets an abortion. I don’t know what exactly happened between both sets of parents, but we didn’t speak about it anywhere fearing social stigma,” the aunt told ThePrint.
“The girl was sent home immediately after the abortion procedure. She started bleeding profusely after being sent home. That is why her mother decided to lodge a police complaint in the matter,” a doctor involved in the investigation told ThePrint, requesting anonymity.
The girl’s parents refused to comment, but the aunt claimed the boy’s family “paid Rs 30,000” to Kadam Hospital for the abortion procedure.
Police sources told ThePrint that the girl’s blood samples were referred to the pathology lab that did her blood work using Dr Niraj Kadam’s name, showing that he was also aware of the incident, but didn’t report it to the police.
The girl is currently recovering at a government hospital in Wardha.
Hospital was ‘flouting’ several rules
To help in the investigation, the Wardha District Collectorate formed a seven-member expert task force comprising members of the police, doctors and the revenue department.
During the probe, the police and the committee stumbled upon 12 skulls and 54 bones, including ribs and other body parts, buried in the biogas chamber at the rear end of the hospital.
“These parts are sent to the forensic lab in Nagpur to determine the nature of those bones and skulls,” police inspector Bhanudas Pidurkar, who is a part of the team, told ThePrint.
“We need to determine whether they are of humans, and if yes, what gender, how old they are, all this will be determined by the forensic lab,” Pidurkar said, adding the forensic report is expected to come in the next 10-15 days.
Dr Mohan Sute, another member of the team, told ThePrint that overall the records of Kadam Hospital are not clean. Sute is medical superintendent at the sub-district level government hospital, where Dr Niraj Kadam was working on contract from 2018. His contract was terminated with immediate effect in an order dated 17 January.
“Dr Rekha Kadam who has a degree of MS in obstetrics and gynaecology has not yet registered under the Medical Council of India but is still practising gynaecology procedures,” Sute said. “We checked the entire hospital, labour rooms, OTs, OPD, ward, records and lot of issues were found in them.”
The investigating team also found issues with the sonography machine. According to Mirge, the machine’s licence was not renewed since January 2021. Most of the paperwork that is maintained to determine why a sonography was done did not mention any reasons, raising the suspicion. “We don’t know yet whether they were for sex determination,” Sute said.
The task force also found 71,764 contraceptive pills — Mala N — that had expired. The expiry dates were from 2013, 2016 and 2020. The task force also recovered 90 oxytocin injections.
“These are all procured via government hospitals only and neither Kadam hospital nor sub-district hospital have any records of how these medicines got out. But since Dr Niraj has worked on contract at a government hospital since 2018, his role is being investigated,” Sute said.
Sute added the hospital was also allegedly flouting biomedical waste rules.
According to the Biomedical Waste Management Rules 2016 under Maharashtra Pollution Control Board, biomedical waste needs to be disposed of with a certified agency within 48 hours. For the Wardha district, Nagpur-based Superb Hygienic collects biomedical waste from all hospitals. It comes every alternate day to Arvi.
According to Sute, Kadam Hospital didn’t have any contract with this agency and used to dispose of biomedical waste as regular garbage.
On Wednesday, a fresh FIR was registered on a complaint by Sute, booking all four doctors in the family — Dr Kumar Kadam, Dr Shailaja Kadam, Dr Niraj Kadam and Dr Rekha Kadam. The FIR has been filed under IPC sections including criminal breach of trust by public servant, and under sections of the Maharashtra Nursing Homes Registration Act, the MTP Act and the Drugs and Cosmetics Act.
(Edited by Amit Upadhyaya)