A 55-year-old man from Moti Nagar, who was found lying in a pool of blood near Punjabi Bagh on November 13, died in Safdarjung Hospital 12 days later, alone, with the police and hospital administration clueless about the “unknown” patient. A few miles away, his family continued their desperate search for Gopalakrishnan Thankal, unaware that he had fallen into a coma, been admitted to the hospital and died a few days later.
The incident has thrown into focus the lack of coordination between police stations in Delhi. Thankal’s family members learnt about his death four days later, when they found two cops from Punjabi Bagh police station with his photo, asking if anyone knew the deceased.
“I was shocked when the policemen informed me that my husband had been found in an injured state on November 13 midnight, only a few steps away from our residence. He had gone out to dispose of the garbage, but never came back. He died on November 25 at Safdarjung Hospital,” said Thankal’s wife Shreekumari.
The couple had shifted to Delhi in 1982 from Kerala’s Alleppey district. Thankal was an ambulance driver with a private hospital. Barely 300 metres away from his residence, some passers-by located Thankal in a pool of blood and informed the police. The police suspect that it could be a hit-and-run case or Thankal could have lost his balance, fallen on the road and suffered a serious injury.
The area where Thankal was found falls under the jurisdiction of the Punjabi Bagh police station. The policemen initially took him to Acharya Shree Bhikshu Hospital, from where he was shifted to South Delhi’s Safdarjung Hospital and kept under observation.
“On November 14, we approached the Moti Nagar police station, but the policemen asked us to come back later, as a missing persons complaint can only be filed 24 hours after the person goes missing,” said D Vipin Kumar, Thankal’s son-in-law.
“Later, the police told us that they have spread the word about the missing complaint through their wireless sets. The other police stations were supposed to be alerted by this… it seems to be a clear case of lack of coordination between the police stations,” said Kumar.
“Had they acted in time, we could have saved my father,” said Thankal’s daughter Jyoti, adding, “I don’t understand how the two police stations (Moti Nagar and Punjabi Bagh), which fall in the same district and are located within five kilometers of each other, could not coordinate information about a missing person”.
An inquiry will be conducted into the matter to identify the lapses, said DCP (west) Pushpendra Kumar.
“They admitted him to the hospital but they did not bother to conduct a proper search… They also told us that he was not carrying any identity proof through which his identity could be established,” said Shrinivasan.
The family claimed they had met JCP, southwestern range, Deependra Pathak and had written letters to police chief B S Bassi, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and Prime Minister Narendra Modi, seeking their intervention into the matter, but received no response.
“On November 29, a neighbour told us that two policemen in the area were showing around a photo of my father. They told us that he had died and his body had been kept at Safdarjung Hospital,” said Jyoti.