Video Editor: Mohd. Irshad Alam
"That day, he came home for lunch and left for work again. He told me he would be home by 10 pm but he never came back," said a devastated Neha, the wife of an e-rickshaw driver who had died on Tuesday, 29 March, in Outer North Delhi, while trying to rescue three MTNL contractual workers from a sewer.
On Tuesday, four people, including the rickshaw driver Satish Singh, 38, had died in the sewer. The rescue operation had begun at 6.30 pm and their bodies were retrieved at 3.30 am. The other three men have been identified as Bacchu Singh (54), Pintu Rao (30), and Suraj Sahni (54).
Satish's brother, Krishan, told The Quint, "He didn't even think about his family. He did not think about what would happen to his daughters, to his wife, after he is gone...He was a very helpful person, always ready to help those in need."
Satish had lost his job as a gym trainer during the lockdown in 2020 and had been riding a rented e-rickshaw since then. He is survived by his wife Neha (35) and their three daughters, Tisha (14), Kritika (9), and Arvi (2).
His family has alleged delayed rescue and negligence by the authorities and is seeking relief from Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal.
WHAT HAD HAPPENED?
Two contractual workers, 54-year-old Bacchu Singh and 30-year-old Pintu Rao, had been hired to lay telecom lines for MTNL in the area. Before their month-long work could end, they died after getting trapped in the sewer line.
When the contractor, 54-year-old Suraj Sahni, found out that the workers were trapped, he tried to help them, but in vain. He too went inside the sewer and lost his life after getting stuck.
Akshay Kumar, an eyewitness and owner of a shop in front of the sewer line, narrated how the tragedy unfolded:
"The rickshaw driver, who was passing by, thought of helping the people who were stuck. A crowd had gathered here, and he also got down. Two of my employees also decided to help, but he said that they won't be able to as they are not strong. He tried helping the men but couldn't come out either."Akshay Kumar, an eyewitness
Kumar added, "There was negligence on the part of the administration. The incident took place in the evening, and the bodies were retrieved at 3-4 am the next day. If a JCB had been arranged in time to break the manhole, the men might have survived."
Meanwhile, Krishan further told The Quint that this wasn't the first time Satish had gone out of his way to help someone else.
"He was a very helpful person, always ready to help those in need. He had also saved two children from drowning in a lake a few years ago," Krishan added.
RESCUE EFFORTS DELAYED: KIN
The Samaypur Badli Police Station had received information about the incident at 6:34 pm on Tuesday, following which police officials reached the site of the accident and cordoned off the area.
The rescue operation went on till 3.30 am and a JCB was eventually used to expand the manhole. Only then were the four bodies, lying on an iron net on the sewer, retrieved.
Alleging negligence on the part of the police's efforts, Satish's nephew, Deepak, told The Quint:
"What is the use of the rescue team? The public there shouted 'help them, help them' but the police hit them with lathis. He (Satish) used to love us like a father, and always called me 'beta, beta'. We all lived harmoniously."
After shifting the bodies to Babu Jagjivan Ram Hospital, the police had filed an FIR under Indian Penal Code Section 304 (causing death due to negligence).
Further, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) had issued notices to Delhi's chief secretary, the government, the police commissioner, and the MTNL chairman, seeking a detailed report on the incident within four weeks.
Meanwhile, speaking about Satish's relationship with his youngest daughter, his mother said, "He used to make his youngest daughter sleep on his belly. I used to tell him that he's not their mother, and he would say, 'Mummy, she sleeps with me only.' But she has been looking for him since yesterday."