The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Four of a family charred to death

Four members of a family were burnt to death after their dilapidated house at Nabapally, in the Sonarpur police station area, caught fire following a short-circuit early on Wednesday.

Prem Chand Das, 45, a Group –D employee of NRS Medical College and Hospital, was sleeping in his small room with wife Saraswati, daughters Priti, 16, and Piu, 11, and son Prasenjit, 14, when the house caught fire.

Except for Saraswati, all four were charred to death. Saraswati is fighting for life at NRS Medical College with over 80 per cent burns.

“It is just an accident and there is no possibility of any foul play. The room in which the family was sleeping caught fire after a short-circuit. We have found that the wiring was faulty and the switchbox was completely burnt,’’ said Rajesh Singh, additional superintendent of police, who went to the spot to investigate the case.

As nobody had lodged any complaint, the police have started a suo motu unnatural death case. The house has been sealed.

According to police and witnesses, as on any other day, the family went to bed around 11 pm. Local people woke up when they heard Saraswati screaming for help. Young men rushed to their rescue and found smoke billowing from Das’ house. Saraswati’s cries for help had stopped by then.

Neighbours broke open the door, as it was locked from inside. All the occupants were charred. Noticing that Saraswati was still alive, she was taken to Subhasgram rural hospital, from where she was shifted to NRS Medical College.

She was admitted to the intensive care unit. The other four victims, too, were taken to hospital, where they were pronounced dead.

According to neighbours, Das’ family had been living in the two-room house with a tiled roof for years. A plastic sheet covered the leaking roof.

Preliminary investigations revealed that the electric meter box in the kitchen was intact. “The short-circuit was traced to a switchbox in the room in which they were sleeping. The wiring was very old and faulty. The TV, lights and a fan — all drew power from the same switchboard,’’ said Amit Roy Chowdhury, inspector-in-charge of Sonarpur police station.

Local CPM leader Gopal Aich, however, fears foul play and demanded a thorough inquiry, but police ruled it out as there was no motive for killing the family. “By all accounts, Das was an honest, though, poor man and was not involved in either any political or property dispute”, said Singh.

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