"I ate rajma-chawal in December," said Sonali Bahal, words barely escaping her dried lips, as she sat on the hospital bed in Noida's Kailash Hospital. That was the last time she and her sister Anuradha had eaten anything.
For four months, no one visited or left the Bahal household in Noida posh Sector 29. The two sisters, in their 40s, had no water or power connections; both the lines had been disconnected due to non-payment of bills.
But all these were not reasons enough for the Sector 29 resident welfare association (RWA) to sense trouble and shoulder the responsibility. Writing a letter to the local police was all it did in the name of 'welfare'. The police's response was even more baffling.
The RWA claimed it wrote to the police about one-and-a-half month ago and informed them that no one had visited or left the house for "quite some time now" and sought an intervention. The police's response - "It is an absolutely personal matter; let them be."
SC Sharma of the RWA said, "We did inform the police. We cannot act on our own."
But social activist Usha Thakur, who led the police to house No 326, said, "The RWA is solely to be blamed. The office bearers have run away in fear."
Defending their inaction, senior superintendent of police (SSP) SN Singh said, "We cannot just barge into a house in which two sisters live. We have to make preliminary enquiries before taking such decisions."
On asking will the police take action against the RWA for negligence, the SSP said, "We are looking into the matter. Appropriate action will be taken. We have also spoken to their brother."
"Instead of talking about the delay, you should note that had the police not rescued the two in time, they would have died," he added.
Neighbours, too, did not bother much and apparently left them to fend for themselves. A retired brigadier, who lives next door, slammed the door, saying, "Everything is on the TV; go and watch."
The watchman of the sector said since their dog died, the two sisters stopped coming out of the house.
RWA wrote to cops about them
Excerpt from RWA's letter to the police:
"Two women, in their 40s, have been living in house No 326 for the last two-three years. Their brother lives elswhere. For the last six-seven months, they have not come out. Despite requests, they are not opening the door. Till two months ago, a shopkeeper used to keep eatables at their doorstep. About a month ago, the matter was conveyed to sector 20 police station. When the cops arrived, they opened the door only for 30 seconds. You're requested to inform their relatives and take suitable action."