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Drought, disability, dead son

india Updated: Sep 26, 2011 16:54 IST
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Their 22-year-old son Umesh Kant Pandey was coming home from Delhi, but they wished he hadn't, at least in this terrible way.

Umesh's body - the Gurgaon toll plaza employee was shot on the chest by a man who did not want to pay for the Rs 27 ticket - had to wait two hours before the overflowing local canal receded.

From the main road, it is a 6 km walk through crop fields and nullahs to the house Umesh's parents, Ramkishore, 70, and Ramrati, 65, live.

The house has no television, mobile or landline phone, or even a chair.

This is Bihara village in Hanmana tehsil, 95 km from district headquarter Rewa in MP, close to the UP border. It lies 530 km north-east of Bhopal.

After a drought-fried decade, Rewa saw flood this year because of release of water from a dam in adjoining UP. Locally, this region is cited as an example of upper-class poverty.

About a lakh young people like Umesh, most of them Brahmins and school dropouts, migrate every year to cities like Delhi, Bhopal and Indore in search of jobs.

In the Capital, he may have been just a part of cold statistics of migrant young men employed as watchmen, pizza delivery boys, or toll collectors, but the Rs 2,500 he used to send home from his Rs 6,500 salary meant a lot for his desperately needy family.

He sent the money to his mother's public sector bank account, and somebody from the family would have to travel to the branch in a nearby town a couple of hours away to fetch the money.

"The family could make two ends meet because of the money he sent us. Our world has got shattered. Only god knows how we will survive," said his father, a small-time cultivator who struggles to provide the family with meals and basic amenities with his own earnings.

Nearby, Ramrati sobs on continuously, sometimes murmuring in the local Bagheli language words meant for her dead son.

Umesh's three sisters are all married. A brother is mentally challenged, whose wife has left him, family members inform. The younger brother has physical disability.

Umesh got married four months ago. They were still to perform 'gauna', a ritual after the wedding after which the wife formally starts living in the husband's home.

Umesh's cousin Manoj Pandey had gone to collect the body from the district hospital, Gurgaon.

"Toll plaza officials first paid Rs 2,000 to the driver of our car in which the body was to be carried, and asked us to leave," said Manoj.

"When some journalists intervened, the officials paid us Rs 5,000."

The officials could not be contacted to confirm Manoj's version.

Umesh's body was first taken to his village on Saturday, and then to Allahabad, where he was cremated on the banks of the Ganges.