A 70-year-old Dalit woman, who had come to the district collectorate of Datia to seek help, died on the premises on Thursday morning allegedly because of starvation.
Her son, a daily wager, said the family hadn't eaten in three days. The district administration has denied the allegation, and an interesting development has tossed the case over to district police, which, in turn, has claimed that it had no role to play in the entire incident.
Ramshri Jatav of Kodari village in Sewda block of Datia, 400km North of Bhopal, had reportedly come to the district collectorate on Tuesday to lodge a complaint during the weekly public hearing conducted by the collector.
She had pleaded the collector to help her in getting a bank account opened, so that a cheque of Rs. 1,400, received under Janani Suraksha Scheme of the government after her daughter-in-law gave birth to a child two months ago, could be encashed.
"The bank officials were saying that Rs. 1,000 would be needed to open an account, which we did not have. So we came to the collector's office. The collector (GP Kabeerpanthi) told us that he would instruct the bank to open an account on Wednesday," said Mohan Jatav, son of Ramshri while talking to HT on telephone from Datia.
Mohan, 35, a daily wage labourer, said that after the assurance they decided to stay near the collectorate but could not meet the collector on Wednesday.
"We did not have any money and could not buy food. My mother succumbed this morning because of acute hunger," Mohan said. He said he had no work since last one month and the family was facing a financial crisis.
Despite repeated attempts of HT (through calls on cell phone/office landline number and SMS), the collector GP Kabeerpanthi was not available for comments. SB Singh, the divisional commissioner of Gwalior division (under which Datia district falls), however, denied the allegations of Mohan Jatav.
Singh said he enquired into the incident and was told by district collector that the woman had come to the public hearing with a complaint that she had been assaulted by goons in her village. Her case was referred to the office of the district superintendent of police (SP).
"I was told the woman left for her village on the same day and this morning her son appeared in the park in front of collector's office with the women's dead body," the divisional commissioner said. I have asked the district collector to find out what action the SP's office took in the matter, he said.
As for the Janani Suraksha Scheme cheque, Singh said the woman had put up that issue before the collector too, but it was resolved when the collector agreed to ask the bank to open account without any balance. "But the main issue was that of the alleged assault," the commissioner said.
The superintendent of police Chandrashekhar Solanki, however, said that in his knowledge, his office had not received any reference from the district collectorate about the woman till date.
"The police are in no way involved." He said a case of death has been registered and the police would be conducting an investigation on the basis of the postmortem report.