regular-article-logo Saturday, 20 April 2024

A tale of a jawan's death and his neglected village

Army personnel carrying Kumar's body waded through knee-deep wastewater to reach the cremation ground

Gaurav Saini New Delhi Published 16.10.22, 04:22 PM
Representational Image

Representational Image File Picture

The rain gushed through holes in the rotting tin roof covering the pyre, the wind blowing away the tarpaulin villagers tried to put. Havildar Shiv Kumar was finally cremated with diesel, the gathering darkness metaphor for the anguish of his family and the despair of a village at the edge of India's capital.

On the border between Delhi and Gurgaon, Daurala is the nowhere village without piped water, proper drainage or even sewer connections, slipping through the cracks from the high octane development of its environs. That Kumar was denied dignity in death that traumatic September evening underscored for its people the hopelessness of their situation.


"It was my son's 40 birthday when he came back home in a flag-draped coffin. What aggravated my pain was that his mortal remains were consigned to flames using diesel from a tractor," said Kumar's mother Ramvati.

Kumar was posted with 24 Grenadiers in Jaipur when he got dengue. He was shifted to the army's Research and Referral Hospital here on September 22 and the body was brought to the village on September 23 amid heavy rain. What happened after that is a case study of all that is wrong, according to the villagers.

Almost every house in Daurala sends men to the armed forces and it was the first time in several decades that a soldier from the village died on duty.

"We have a population of around 800 people, of which only 300 are eligible to vote. We don't matter to them. There's nothing called basic infrastructure in the village," retired hawildar Diwan Singh said, his eyes fixed on the glittering high-rises of Gurgaon visible from every corner of the village.

Residents of Daurala say successive governments have neglected their village as its small population is not considered important for elections.

"There are no roads, no drinking water, no sewer network... We can still live without these but we cannot tolerate the treatment meted out to our soldier (Kumar)," the 65-year-old said.

He recounts in detail the night of Kumar's funeral.

"It was already getting dark and the rain wasn't stopping. The damaged tin shed could not prevent the pyre from getting wet. We tried to cover the roof with a tarpaulin sheet but it gave way to gusty winds. With no option left, we took out 10 litres of diesel from a tractor and used it to light the pyre," Singh said.

Sanjay Singh, a 47-year-old retired havildar and Kumar's brother, said administrative apathy had forced them to use diesel to light the pyre. The ghee and the damp wood was not just enough to set it aflame.

"The local administration could not arrange five sheets of tin to cover the cremation platform all these years. We have now decided to do it on our own," Sanjay Singh said.

The villagers narrate in detail everything that went wrong.

The army hearse could not enter the village as its narrow roads have been damaged beyond repair over the years. The village is at a lower level then the main road and there is no sewer network so wastewater spills on to its streets.

As a result, army personnel carrying Kumar's body waded through knee-deep wastewater to reach the cremation ground.

It didn't stop there, the villagers stated.

Left to fend for themselves, they arranged two JCBs to prepare a mud platform so that Kumar's family members could walk around the pyre.

"No one from the government or the administration was present at the time of the last rites. Had they been there, they would have realised their failure. They could not ensure proper facilities to even cremate our dead...," Sanjay Singh said.

"Three generations of our family served the army. Despite that we had to go through so much trouble to cremate our brother. The army personnel who brought the mortal remains were shocked by the conditions they witnessed," he added.

"The government had done nothing for the development of the village and nothing to pay its respects to the late soldier", he complained.

Calling for accountability, many villagers spelt out its political past.

The village falls in Matiala constituency which was formed in 2008. Since then, it has seen three MLAs from three different parties Sumesh Shokeen from the Congress in 2008, Rajesh Gehlot from the Bharatiya Janata Party in 2013 and Gulab Singh Yadav from the Aam Aadmi Party in 2015 and 2020.

The panchayat system in Delhi ended in 1990 and therefore there is no local leadership in the village.

Sanjay Singh said the villagers had informed Yadav about the death of his brother but he did not come even for the 13th day ceremony.

Yadav said he was in Gujarat when the jawan passed away and that he visited his family two days after the'tehravi' ritual. Local councillor, Deepak Mehra of the Samajwadi Party, met the bereaved family two days after that.

Rao Satbir Singh, a social activist working in the Matiala area, said of the 357 villages in Delhi, Daurala sends maximum men to the armed forces.

"The village doesn't have a piped water supply. The Delhi Board Board sends tankers once every eight days. Since there is no sewer network, the sewage from open drains spills onto streets when it rains. The youth is demoralised by government's apathy towards the village," he said.

Satish Singh, also a retired havildar, showed the pool of stagnant sewer water behind his house.

"Sewage from the village flows into a pond and is then pumped into the Sahibi river. The wastewater flows back into the village when water level in the pond rises due to rains", he said.

According to MLA Yadav, construction of a 'phirni' road (a road surrounding a village) and a community centre in the village is pending due to the "lack of consensus among villagers".

"The government has sanctioned Rs 1.5 crore for the construction of a community centre there and work is going to start soon", he said.

Daurala is waiting for the promises to meet.


Follow us on: