December 16, 2012 is still fresh in Rajkumar Singh’s memory. The Kargil war veteran was out in south Delhi when he spotted a young woman and her male friend severely injured on the roadside. It was a cold, misty night and vehicles were speeding by.
The 52-year-old called the police control room and waited with the victims, getting them water and bed sheets to stem the blood flow. After they were taken to hospital, he went home.
“I have seen the Kargil war but the victim’s condition was more brutal. I can never forget that night,” he says.
But the act of kindness appears to have cost him dearly. Singh spent the next four years shuttling between courts and police stations, lost his job, took a pay cut and is now struggling to provide for his family.
The retired havaldar was working as a patrolling officer with the highway concessionaire at the time. But while the media spotlight on the case sparked a nationwide movement to improve women’s safety and effected changes in India’s rape laws, Singh says the prolonged exposure ruined him.
“Police came to my office and called me to the station. I was made a witness but my company was not happy and told me that I was trying to take undue benefit and misuse the spotlight. They started harassing me and finally I had to resign on November 1,” says Singh.
He adds that he couldn’t hold another permanent job as he had to be frequently present in the courts and in police stations. His salary fell by a third and he now earns just Rs 14,000 a month at a temporary position at Delhi airport’s cargo authority.
“I had to take frequent leave for court and police and no company wanted to get involved in the controversy. Without the case, my salary would be Rs 30000 today,” he says.
A distraught Singh – who lives in a modest home in Delhi’s Palam Colony -- says he is finding it impossible to plan for his daughter’s marriage, his son’s education or his wife’s medical treatment.
“The expenses of traveling are high and I have to remain in touch with the lawyers, regularly visit them and phone calls expenses are not easy to be met.”
He says former Delhi chief minister Sheila Dikshit had promised him a job but nothing came out of it.
His former employer – the Delhi Gurgaon Super Connectivity Ltd (DGSCL) that was the original concessionaire of the Delhi-Gurgaon expressway – denied his allegations. “He was not harassed or asked to leave. He must have left on his own”, said an official of the DGSCL.
But despite the hardships, Singh says he has only one regret – that the gang rape victim didn’t survive the assault.
“I was patrolling near Mahipalpur when I heard ‘Bachao- please help’. I stopped, went towards the hedges and found a man and woman, severely injured,” he says.
Many cars, autos and motorbikes were slowing down but none of them stopped to help, he says. Singh says he got a bedsheet and water bottle for the victims from a hotel across the road.
“I took out my sweater and shirt and gave them as they were shivering. They were brutally injured and the woman was bleeding profusely.”
He says he called the PCR vans came after half an hour after two calls and a tussle over jurisdiction. “If the first PCR van had taken her to the hospital without arguing about jurisdiction, the victim might have survived”.