It was otherwise a day of celebrations at Gandhi Colony slum, Mansa Devi Complex, on Saturday, which was hosting two weddings, but the scene turned sombre after the news of the death of three slum residents broke in the afternoon.
All three of them, Ashraf, Dhan Singh and Prem Pal, were the lone bread earners of their respective families. They lost their lives while cleaning a manhole for a daily earning of Rs 400. All hailed from Moradabad district of Uttar Pradesh.
AT DHAN SINGH’S HOUSE, KIDS WERE UNAWARE OF TRAGEDY
With no elder person at their home, Dhan Singh’s eldest son Bunty, around 10-12-year-old, was guarding his five siblings after his mother Nemvati had to go along with the neighbours to the Sector-31 police station.
He was unaware of the tragedy, and neighbours told him that his mother was not well so she went to the hospital.
He was uneasy after mediapersons visited to his one-room shanty. “Before leaving, my father told me not to venture out as someone will lift and send me to an orphanage,” he said.
Bunty had left studies after Class 4, and now he goes to the Golf Club to work as caddie. “My father left at 8am. Earlier, he was going to Una but then he got a sewer cleaning job in Chandigarh so he went there,” he said.
Dhan Singh had migrated to Panchkula about two decades ago, and had been working as daily wage labourer.
PAL OF GLOOM AT PREM PAL’S HOUSE
Prem Pal is survived by wife Santosh and five children. She left with her son Sagar for the police station, and only Nikhil and Anshu, around 5-6-year-old, with aunt Bimla were at the house. Unaware of the tragedy, Nikhil and Anshu had even gone to the nearby wedding tent, and were called back.
Their elder brother Deepak, also not aware of the incident, had gone to the Gold Club to work as caddie.
“Today, before leaving, my father gave us Rs 10 for candies. I shared it with my brother Anshu.
My mother has gone to the hospital to bring father,” said Nikhil. According to Bimla, Prem Pal had come to Panchkula about 20 years ago, and since then he had been working as daily wager.
“Just an hour ago, we got to know that he was no more,” she said.
Both Prem Pal and Dhan Singh were next door neighbours.
ASHRAF’S SON WAS AT LOSS WHEN ASKED FOR HIS FATHER’S PICTURE
Ashraf’s eldest son Arun, around 10-11-year-old, was standing outside his one-room shanty. He was taking care of his brother Subhash, while younger Sachin had gone with mother Sunita to the Sector-31 police station.
“I couldn’t talk to my father today as he left early. Last night also, he came late so I couldn’t talk to him,” said Arun. Unaware of the tragedy, he was surprised when a photojournalist asked for his father’s picture.
“We have told him that his mother had gone to bring his father from the hospital,” said Suraj Pal, Ashraf ’s cousin.
At the Sector-31 police station, Nemvati, Santosh and Sunita were inconsolable. The slumdwellers, who had come along with them, were angry over the compensation.
“We will be sitting here till the full compensation amount is not announced. Tomorrow, we will launch an agitation,” said Sompal, community leader of Gandhi Colony.
“These kind of incidents have happened around five-six times. The last one was seven months ago when a labourer, Vinod, had died while cleaning a manhole in Kajheri. However, only Rs1.5-lakh compensation was announced.
In Manimajra too, the similar kind of incident had happened about three years ago, but only Rs1.5 lakh were given.
Now, there is a Supreme Court judgment that ensures Rs 10 lakh compensation for such victims,” said Suresh Kumar, Sewerage Employees Union, MC and the Chandigarh Administration.
Meanwhile, most of the sanitation workers were present at the Sector-31 police station to pay their respect for the deceased.