Dead sewer worker was more than a father to grieving boy

Anil died of asphyxiation while cleaning a sewer in a residential neighbourhood in Dabri on September 14. He was lowered into a 20-foot-deep sewer by a “weak” rope tied to his waist, which snapped midway.

delhi Updated: Sep 20, 2018 21:28 IST
Delhi sewer worker,Sewer worker,Crowdfunding
In the picture, an 11-year-old boy was grieving over the death of Anil, referring to him as ‘Papa’(HT Photo)

Fresh facts have emerged in the aftermath of the death of Anil, a sewer cleaner, for whose family Good Samaritans have donated more than R57 lakh after being moved by a picture from the cremation ceremony tweeted by this reporter on Sunday.

In the picture, an 11-year-old boy was grieving over the death of Anil, referring to him as “Papa”. Responding to it, NGO Uday Foundation and crowdfunding portal Ketto set up an account for the boy – a call to which 2,594 have responded till Thursday evening.

On Thursday, Anil’s parents came forward and alleged that their son was never married, that the woman he lived with was not his wife. They also said that she was Anil’s maternal aunt, and that the boy in the photo was not Anil’s biological son, but the aunt’s son from a previous marriage.

These facts do not lessen the grief of the boy, or the family. Neighbours and co-workers say that Anil, the woman, and her three children (of which the boy in the picture is one) were living together as a family for at least the past three years. They also say that the boy may not have been Anil’s biological son, but lived as one, and he was dependent on Anil, as was the rest of the family.

Virender, a sanitation worker and Anil’s friend, said Anil had told him and others that he had taken Rani as his wife, and treated the children like his own.

Anil’s landlord in Dabri, Ramo, said the couple had rented a room in her building around three years ago. “They lived like husband and wife. Some months ago, I asked them to vacate the house as they weren’t paying rent. They returned a month ago, and begged me to let them stay as they had nowhere to go. I took pity and let them in,” Ramo said.

On Sunday, when this reporter went to the crematorium, there was only the woman, the three children, and a total of six other neighbours and friends in attendance – Virender and Ramo among them. Anil’s parents were not present at the cremation.

When HT spoke to the woman, she said that Anil had started living with her and the three children after they were abandoned by her husband, who now lives in Mumbai.

“My husband would come home drunk, beat me and our children. He kicked me out of our home and I was on the streets. Anil took me in. We were living as husband and wife, and were to be married soon. He treated my children as his own,” she said.

Anil died of asphyxiation while cleaning a sewer in a residential neighbourhood in Dabri on September 14. He was lowered into a 20-foot-deep sewer by a “weak” rope tied to his waist, which snapped midway.

Six days ago before that, his four-month-old son – with the same woman he lived with -- succumbed to pneumonia.

“Along with Ketto, we’re looking into the news report and will share an update soon. No funds have been transferred till now and the funds raised will only be transferred to the beneficiary (the boy in the picture) following a thorough checking of the facts and completion of the verification procedure,” Rahul Verma, the founder of Uday Foundation said on Thursday.

Last Sunday, at the crematorium, the boy had walked up to Anil’s corpse, removed the sheet covering it, cradled Anil’s face in his palms, and cried out “Papa”, as he began to weep inconsolably.

The picture that moved the Uday Foundation, Ketto, and set off an avalanche of support, captured the boy’s grief before any initiative had been made to raise money for the family. It had nothing to do with his biological relationship with Anil.

First Published: Sep 20, 2018 21:27 IST