It is not unusual to see posts on social media from crowdfunding platforms requesting donations to help people experiencing poverty get expensive medical care. Although many people have benefited from this business, fraudsters have entered the crowdfunding market to quickly earn money by duping the donors. In order to combat this problem and safeguard citizens from being conned, the medical education and drugs department, under the Medical Education ministry led by Shiv Sena- BJP Maharastra Government, has formed a committee to create guidelines for crowdfunding businesses before they request donations.
The Government came to know about the malpractice when various medical practitioners shared about this fraud on social media. Last year on August 25, Dr Prashant Mishra, a heart surgeon based in Mumbai, tweeted about this fraud and highlighted how funds are being raised for simple surgeries like gall bladder removal was three to four times the total cost of the procedure. In the same month, Delhi-based Dr Alok Gupta tweeted a fake estimate letter for surgery to raise funds.
Most of these dubious funding campaigns are posted on crowdfunding platforms Milaap and Ketto. They have duly deleted these campaigns after the complaints. These platforms are not bound to provide information about the operation procedures, profit and loss accounting or fee structure they charge. That’s why a framework is urgently needed to define the roles and responsibilities of the donor, the fundraising platform or the receiving institution.
Maharashtra’s state Medical Education Minister, Girish Mahajan, talked about the seriousness of the situation, “They are collecting crores by showing images of helplessness of needy families. The Government has learnt that funds are collected by some even after the completion of treatment. Sometimes, a lot of money is raised for small surgeries. We need to monitor these platforms”.
In this regard, on May 29, the Maharashtra Government appointed a five-member committee and was given two months to submit their report. The following members will be part the committee:
- Virendra Singh, Commissioner of Medical Education.
- Yashaswi Yadav, Special Inspector General of Police (Cyber) Maharashtra.
- Makrand Kulkarni, Deputy Secretary of Law and Justice department.
- Tulsidas Solanke, Joint Director of Health Services.
- Dr Vivek Pakhmode, Joint Director (Dental) of Medical Education and Research.
The Deputy Secretary of Medical Education and Research, Ajit Sasulkar, states, “While crowdfunding to help the needy is a noble cause, there is no manual given by the Government to regulate those seeking funds”. He further said that fraudsters entering into this domain of crowdfunding “has led to a growing mistrust among those who wish to genuinely donate funds, which affects the truly needy”. Minister Mahajan agreed with Sasulkar and states, “We want control over the crowdfunding platforms and also enhance the trust of the donors”.
Dr Prashant Mishra applauded the Government’s move to regularize crowdfunding platforms. He states, “I am glad that the issues highlighted by me and others in the fraternity have led to this development. We are a developing country with modest funds. Maximum patients must benefit, and donors should be satisfied that their money has benefitted someone. Regulations were needed for a long time. This will ensure that money goes to the right hands”.