| Sheikh Akhtar's children break down after the police inform them about his death. Picture by Surajit Roy
Ratua, Dec. 25: They had been their last hope. Fathers, sons and brothers who the family knew would deliver them from poverty and debt.
Sheikh Akhtar of Mominpur, 50 km from Malda town, under Ratua police station, was one of them. The 35-year-old, one of the 11 contract labourers killed in south Delhi after the earth caved in at a construction site, leaves behind his 65-year old mother, wife, a son and a married daughter.
Akhtar had paid Rs 30,000 as dowry for his daughter's marriage. He had promised the groom's family Rs 50,000. An inconsolable Afsar Bibi, Akhtar's wife, said: 'He had gone there so that he could earn the remaining amount. Only six months ago we had married off our daughter to Ziaul Sheikh of Atgama village. Now what will we do'
When the police jeep arrived at Akhtar's house this morning, the entire village seemed to have converged there. At first no one was sure which family had lost whom.
Akhtar's mother had a confused look. She mumbled, almost incoherently: 'We are doomed. We have lost the only earning member of the house.'
The Malda additional superintendent of police, Debasish Baral, had got in touch with the Delhi police as soon as TV channels started flashing the news today.
Baral had personally contacted the investigating officer of Sarita Vihar police station and had collected the names. While 10 of the deceased are from Ratua, one is from Manikchak police station area.
Food processing minister Sailen Sarkar said: 'More than 40 labourers from this area had been engaged by the contractor. The families are too poor to bring back the bodies. Our party MP Brinda Karat has been entrusted with the job of sending the bodies by train.'
For Tamina Bewa, life has come to a standstill. When the 44-year-old lost her husband four years ago, she knew that she had her children to live for. But now that one of them 'Zahur Alam, 22 ' is lost, she is not so sure. 'How can it be' I had sent him to earn his living. How could he die' the mother wailed.
She was upset that the panchayat pradhan and the zilla parishad karmadhaksha did not come to visit her.
The group of 40 labourers had been to Delhi on a 50-day contract. The police are now looking for Bablu Sheikh who had taken the contract of supplying the workers.
Local RSP leader Rahim Bakshi said: 'We have got the list of the 11 deceased. But seven others are still missing.'
District magistrate Abhijit Chowdhury said the post-mortems would be conducted tomorrow. 'We are making all arrangements for cremation of the bodies. We shall also ensure compensation for the family members of the deceased. Prior to this tragedy, six labourers from Chanchal had died in a similar incident. Their families were given Rs 2 lakh each,' Chowdhury said.
Among the dead are also Ruksat Ali, Atul Chowdhury, Shankar Chowdhury, Gandhi Sabji, Suresh Mondal, Ratul Mondal, Uday Mondal, Ajit Mondal, and Sheikh Kalia from Kaliachak police station area.