A plastic chair, a folding cot, two bags with clothes, a stove and a few utensils were lying in a 30 square feet room, which is now locked. On Tuesday, it was in this room that three children starved to death. The sisters — Mansi (8), Paro (4) and Shikha (2) — were staying at the house since Saturday, along with their parents. Their father, Mangal Singh, a rickshaw puller from West Bengal’s Midnapur, is missing. The mother, Beena, is reportedly mentally unfit. They were staying with Narayan, Singh’s friend.
Neighbours said that the room was usually locked and the children would only come out to use the common toilet, located at a corner of the single-storey residential complex in Mandawali’s Pandit Chowk. There are eight separate rooms in the complex.
District Magistrate K Mahesh said police are tracking the father, while the mother has been admitted to the Institute of Human Behaviour and Allied Sciences (IHBAS). “We have given Rs 25,000 to the family. Further aid is being considered.”
Nimesh Desai, Director IHBAS, said Beena is significantly malnourished. “Her mental status will be evaluated… only then can we ascertain if she is suffering from a mental illness or intellectual impairment. Beena has not said much so far,” he said.
DCP (east) Pankaj Singh said they are waiting for the second autopsy report, conducted by a board of doctors of Guru Teg Bahadur (GTB) Hospital. Sources said the second autopsy report also confirms death due to starvation. As per the post-mortem conducted at LBS Hospital, the children died 12-18 hours before they were brought to the hospital.
A kilometre away is the one-room set where the family lived earlier, before the landlord asked them to vacate for not paying rent.
Neighbours in the area claimed that Singh was often spotted lying on the road — drunk. “Sometimes we would give them food… their father did not take care of them,” said Vinay, a neighbour.
Narayan told The Indian Express that he had fed the girls and Beena on Monday night. “Paro and Shikha were unwell since Saturday. While I got food for them, Mangal bought medicine. The next morning (Tuesday), Mangal left in search of work. I left later as well. When I came back at 9 am, the children were dead.”
Narayan said he did not tell neighbours, fearing chaos. He called up another friend and went looking for Singh. The mother locked the house from inside. At about 10.30 am, the landlady turned up to check the house and discovered the bodies.
Meanwhile, Narayan also came back. The girls were taken to LBS Hospital, where doctors declared them brought dead.
Savitri, who lives in the next room, said she saw the girls arrive on Saturday.