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Strangers aid kids orphaned by gang war in north Delhi

Sangeeta Sharma, 37, a factory worker, the sole earning member of her family, was shot dead on June 18 and the impoverished family did not even have money to move her body from the hospital to the crematorium.

india Updated: Dec 02, 2018 09:02 IST
Shiv Sunny
Shiv Sunny
New Delhi
Sangeeta Sharma’s children (right) have seen an outpouring of help from strangers ever since their mother was killed in a shootout between two gangs in north Delhi’s Sant Nagar.(HT Photo)

Six months after their mother, a passer-by, was killed in a shootout between two gangs on a busy road in North Delhi’s Sant Nagar, the ailing father of Shruti Sharma, 15, and her brother Dheeraj, 14, lost his battle with chronic asthma but thanks to the generosity of strangers, the future of the two children looks secure (and their father wasn’t deprived of medical care in his last days).

Sangeeta Sharma, 37, a factory worker, the sole earning member of her family, was shot dead on June 18 and the impoverished family did not even have money to move her body from the hospital to the crematorium. Her husband, Surender Sharma, was concerned that with his days, too, numbered, their two children would end up in a life of crime.

By the time he died on Thursday, Sharma knew this wouldn’t be the case, courtesy the kindness of strangers that ensured the children continued their schooling and he himself did not die for lack of medical care. Their monetary contributions over the last five months have meant that Dheeraj can continue to dream of becoming a train driver like his grandfather and, Shruti, 15, can still become the police officer she wants to be. “We will return to school in the next few days, after performing our father’s last rites,” said Dheeraj.

Sangeeta earned ₹6,000 a month and would often work overtime to earn extra money to buy clothes and shoes for her children. She also ran the house, cooked, tutored her children and tended to her ailing husband.

She was walking to the Sant Nagar bus stop when a gang allegedly led by notorious criminal Jitender Mann alias Gogi carried out an attack on its rivals. Eight people were injured and four, including Sangeeta, were killed.

As news spread about Sangeeta’s family struggling to bring back her body from the hospital, a local dairy shop owner, Hanuman Prasad, arranged a loudspeaker and announced their plight to the neighbourhood. “It wasn’t possible to go from shop to shop, so I used the loudspeaker to announce the family’s situation,” said Prasad.

Prasad doesn’t recollect how much money was collected, but Shruti remembers him giving her the ₹60,000 that remained after paying for a hearse and the cremation. The next day, three others reached out, offering to contribute for the children’s education and their father’s treatment. One, a government contractor, MM Pal Singh alias Goldy, has been depositing ₹10,000 into the family’s bank account every month. Two others, including a retired army man, and a third person who the children know only by his first name, have been contributing ₹5,000 each every month. “I was pained when I got to know that a family was in trouble because of criminals. I decided to pay for their educational needs and other expenses,” said Goldy, who operates from an office in Kashmere Gate. He said he would continue to help the family until both children are in a position to start working.

The second good samaritan, a retired army man, said he learnt of the children’s bleak future from media reports. Shruti said he visits the family every month to give them ₹5,000. “It is God’s work that I am doing and I will continue to do,” said the man, who broke down after HT informed him on the phone about Surender’s death.

Another person who was affected by news reports was Kapil Banga, a trustee at NGO Prerna - Ek Prayas. “I realised that Sangeeta’s death would inevitably mean her children dropping out of school and having to work,” said Banga.

According to Shruti, the NGO has been arranging the monthly quota of the family’s ration, a litre of milk every day, and also pays for their electricity and gas bills. Banga said the monthly expenditure comes to ₹4,000-5,000 and he has promised to keep the funds coming for at least six years.

“We have around 600 people who contribute ₹100 every month to us. That helps us provide for many such helpless families,” said Banga, adding his focus is to keep the help flowing in even after the media hype over such cases ceases.

Monetary help has also flowed in from the Delhi government -first in the form of ₹2 lakh from the revenue department three days after Sangeeta’s death, and ₹5 lakh from the chief minister’s relief fund on November 20. All the money has been put into fixed deposits. “It is unfortunate that the children are orphaned, but we will ensure there is no interruption in their education,” said Burari legislator Sanjeev Jha .

While it is too early to task someone with managing the children’s finances, their cousin and his wife, who have been taking care of Surender and his children for the past six months, have promised to continue looking after them. “In his last moments at the hospital, my father held my hand, put his head in my lap and urged me to continue studying,” said Shruti.

First Published: Dec 02, 2018 09:02 IST