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Family of girls who died of starvation in Delhi ran tea stall before falling on hard times

The bodies of the three girls — 8, 4 and 2 years old — were found in Talab Chowk, where the family had moved last Saturday after being evicted from their Saket Block home. Police and medical reports have said that the girls died of starvation.

delhi Updated: Jul 27, 2018 23:47 IST
Anvit Srivastava
Anvit Srivastava
New Delhi, Hindustan Times
Delhi starvation deaths,Starvation,Malnutrition
A tea shop where Mangal Singh used to work, at Mandawali area, in East Delhi. (Sonu Mehta/HT Photo)

The family of Mangal Singh, whose three daughters died of starvation in east Delhi’s Mandawali on Tuesday, had seen “better days” before falling on hard times due to a combination of factors, according to neighbours from the by-lane where he lived until last week .

For several years, Singh ran a tea stall in lane number 2 of Mandawali’s Saket Block that did brisk business, with rickshaw pullers in the neighbourhood forming the bulk of his regular clientele. Neighbours, including photo studio manager Harichand Gola, said they remember Singh’s stall bustling daily from at least 2012 till about two years ago.

“Back in 2012, it was at his shop where we used to spend our mornings and evenings after work. Mangal was a hardworking man. He loved his daughters ,” Gola said. His wife, Beena, was confined to the house for the most part and did not have much interaction with people in the neighbourhood, he added.

Police have suggested over the last week that she may have been suffering from a disability. The children, Mansi, Shikha and Parul, are well remembered in the neighbourhood.

Gola recalled a day, about two years ago, when Singh came into the studio to get a family picture clicked with his wife and all three daughters.

“If a man who runs a tea stall gets a family picture clicked in a studio, it means he loved them. It was an extra expense for him,” he said.

The bodies of the three girls — 8, 4 and 2 years old — were found in Talab Chowk, where the family had moved last Saturday after being evicted from their Saket Block home. Police and medical reports have said that the girls died of starvation, a finding that has sent shockwaves through the Delhi government and civic administration.

But a preliminary report by an independent magistrate on Friday suggested that the children were given an “unknown medicine” by their father a day before they died. The report, submitted by the district magistrate of Shahdara, K Mahesh, to deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia, stated that the girls were suffering from “loose motions and vomiting,” which may have been due to a stomach infection.

Mangal Singh has been missing since Tuesday morning.

Two of the three sisters who died of starvation in Delhi’s Mandwali area. ( HT Photo )

People in the neighbourhood said that Singh’s tea stall ran into financial trouble sometime in 2016. He was unable to pay the lease, and ended up losing it. The stall, however, is still up and running at the same spot -- now taken over by a new management.

Soon after losing the stall, Singh took a rickshaw on daily rent and started ferrying passengers in east Delhi.

“The family’s downfall started when he could not pay the lease amount for his tea shop and after running it for four years, he had to give it up,“ Gola said. “It was that very year, after losing his shop, that Mangal started losing his grip on life.”

The man who took over the tea stall from Mangal in 2016, and who knew him from before, said that his financial situation led him to alcohol addiction. “After a year of working as a rickshaw puller, Mangal had started drinking heavily. Last year, he hurt his leg badly, but could not afford treatment. His injury soon turned into a sore . We heard he suffered from diabetes. His walking was affected and his work suffered. It had a major impact on his income,” said the stall manager, who asked not to be named

“Despite these odds, Mangal worked hard for his family and managed to send his eldest daughter to school,” he added.

Another former neighbour, Imran Malik, who runs a scrap shop in the locality, said he and Singh joined a money-back scheme together in 2015. “He wanted to start a shop again. He used to come to me regularly as our agent was the same. He had been irregular with the monthly payment for past few months,” Malik said.

The two were in touch until last Saturday, when he moved out of the neighbourhood to Talab Chowk, about a kilometre away.

While the search for Singh is still on, Beena was admitted to the psychiatry ward of a government hospital on Thursday, according to deputy commissioner of police (east) Pankaj Kumar Singh. Beena has been unable to tell the police how the kids remained deprived of food, or where her husband is.

First Published: Jul 27, 2018 23:07 IST