A 24-year-old man allegedly poured kerosene over an e-rickshaw driver and set him on fire, near the Ramprastha-Delhi border police check-post in Ghaziabad, on Tuesday afternoon. Police traced and arrested the accused within a couple of hours. He hails from the nearby Kadkad Model village.
Police said the victim, Umesh Kumar, around 18 years old, was standing with his e-rickshaw near the check post at 12.15pm when an unidentified man arrived with a bucket full of some flammable liquid and poured it on him. The accused then took out a lighter and set Umesh on fire.
“He was engulfed in flames. Several e-rickshaw drivers rushed him to a local hospital, but he was referred to the GTB Hospital in Delhi. Doctors there said his condition is critical and that he suffered nearly 60-70% burn injuries. They also said his chances of survival are slim. The inflammable substance, suspected to be kerosene or petrol, was poured on the victim over his shoulders. Owing to his critical condition, we have also recorded his statements,” said Anup Singh, circle officer.
Prem Pal, an e-rickshaw operator, said that another e-rickshaw driver, Pintu, suffered severe burn injuries over his hands as he tried to save the victim and douse the fire.
“Pintu was nearby when the incident took place. He took off Umesh’s clothes and doused fire with their help. In return, he suffered sever burn injuries on both his hands. He was also rushed to GTB hospital for treatment,” he said.
After the incident, e-rickshaw drivers at Ramprastha towed away Umesh’s blue-coloured rickshaw which had traces of the substance poured over the victim.
Umesh’s family said he started driving the hired e-rickshaw around a month back, in order to contribute towards income for his family, based in Brij Vihar.
“My brother also told us that he had an altercation with some men from Kadkad Model around a week back. But he did not tell why the altercation took place. On Tuesday, he went out on his daily routine and came back home to re-charge the battery. He left the house again at around 11.45pm. Then, we got the news that he was set on fire,” said Pinky, Umesh’s younger sister.
Following statements given by the victim, police on Tuesday evening traced and arrested one Pawan Raghav, a resident of Kadkad Model, who admitted to the crime.
“The victim told us that he and Pawan had an altercation over a trifle matter around one and half years back at a park. On Tuesday, the accused arrived with a bucket, used to pack paints, and poured kerosene over him before setting him afire. The substance could be kerosene or petrol but we are trying to ascertain it fully. We have arrested Pawan and also registered an FIR for attempt to murder,” Singh added.
Officials, meanwhile, said the accused, Pawan Raghav, used petrol (not kerosene) from his bike and allegedly torched Umesh with the help of a cigarette lighter.
“He said he was on the lookout for revenge, following their previous altercation. On Tuesday, when he saw Umesh standing adjacent to the check post, he stopped his bike at some distance and also found a bucket from the residential area nearby. Later, he pulled out petrol from the bike and headed towards Umesh before emptying the small bucket over him,” said Anup Singh, circle officer.
Only fellow e-rickshaw drivers rushed to help man in flames, says family
“He was totally engulfed in flames and I leaped towards him. On a closer look, I found that Pintu was relentlessly trying to douse the fire after taking off victim’s clothes. Pintu’s hands were severely injured but he did not stop and finally put off the flames over the victim’s head.... even Umesh’s hair was on fire. I could not watch anymore as I easily get disturbed by such incidents,” Prem Pal, an e-rickshaw driver who was at the spot when victim Umesh Kumar was set afire on Tuesday, said.
The gruesome incident attracted a large crowd but no one other than Pintu came forward to help his friend, the victim’s family said. Later, both were finally rushed to GTB Hospital in Delhi.
“I saw him in a completely burnt state after the incident. He was black due to the charred skin, which peeled off on the slightest contact. He was crying in pain. His hands, chest and other body parts were covered with a bedsheet. Later, he was rushed to Delhi for treatment. It was a horrific sight,” Anita Singh, Umesh’s relative, said.
Before being rushed to Delhi, Umesh was taken to a local private hospital but the doctors advised he be treated in Delhi.
“My brother started operating an e-rickshaw one month ago, on a hired basis, as he had left his previous job of fixing set-top box cables. I am worried as his face had got burnt. This will severely affect his marital prospects. We want strict punishment for the accused. Such an act is not acceptable. Maybe a fight was acceptable if they had a disagreement but setting a man on fire is unacceptable,” Rekha, Umesh’s elder sister, said.
Rekha and Umesh’s younger sister Pinky were waiting anxiously at their Brij Vihar residence, where neighbours and e-rickshaw operators from the vicinity gathered to inquire about Umesh’s health.
“We have taken Umesh’s e-rickshaw to a safe location. Who knows if there are more perpetrators? They may even try to damage his vehicle. We will keep a watch over his house so that no untoward incident takes place with his family,” Prem Pal said.