Walking through the lanes of what used to be the residence of 53-year-old Vinod Kumar Pandey, who was killed after a portion of Gokulpuri Pink Line metro station collapsed on Thursday, the claustrophobia grasps and leaches out onto you as the dolour of the crowd grabs the attention.
“We were more worried about his clothes falling from the clothesline than he was but it’s not like he had a choice. Both he and his son kept all their clothes on it because they could not afford an almirah to keep them,” said Manju, a 40-year-old neighbour of the deceased.
Manju pointed at the multiple pairs of shirts, jackets and jeans which hung on the terrace of the deceased’s house.
Pandey, who lived in Northeast Delhi’s Shaheed Bhagat Singh Colony, left behind two daughters and a son, alongside a widow. He succumbed to a grievous injury to his head after a boundary wall of the metro station fell on him.
Almost shaken, and in fear of what may follow, Savithri, a 55-year-old neighbour, gulped and stated, “He was a good man. Would never interfere in anyone else’s life and just go on with his. Kuch keh hi nahi sakte zindagi ke baare mein (There is so much uncertainty in life).”
Pandey, who delivered groceries (more specifically, rice) for a living, was on duty around the Guru Teg Bahadur Hospital at Dilshad Garden when the wall collapsed. According to witnesses, a concrete slab landed on his head, sending him to the ground while grains of rice were strewn across the road.
The neighbours divulged that he would also work as a manual labourer to make ends meet.
“Apart from being a delivery person, he was also working as a daily wage labourer and sometimes he would also go to other houses looking for work. However, he was not bothered by the struggle. Bas Krishna ka naam japta tha (He would keep chanting Krishna’s name),” said Kavita, 40.
Another neighbour added that he had been staying in the Northeast Delhi locality with his son for the past 10 years.
“However, he could not support his child all that well, at least monetarily. The son was studying while also making flower garlands to supplement his father’s income,” said Savita Devi, 35.
His wife stays at Sultanpur in Uttar Pradesh with one of his daughters. His elder daughter is married and resides in Gonda, Uttar Pradesh.
Mohan Singh Bisht, the Bharatiya Janata Party’s Member of Legislative Assembly from Karawal Nagar, highlighted that such instances keep happening in the area because of neglect by the State government.
“If this kind of tragedy would have taken place in any part of New Delhi, would the residents have stayed quiet, or even the media for that matter? They do not consider the people who reside here as humans, and that is just because we reside on the border of Delhi and UP,” he told Patriot.
Presently, the BJP MLA has sent a letter to Union minister Nitin Gadkari demanding audit of the material used by the company in making the metro station.
“It was only in 2012 that the station was built, how did it break this easy?” said Bisht. “The State government only cares about the people of New Delhi and not the poorer sections here, and they have shown this through their actions time and again.”
While Pandey was declared dead upon arrival at the GTB Hospital, four others were injured.
The Delhi Metro Rail Corporation has offered a compensation of Rs 25 lakh to the deceased’s next of kin while victims with minor injuries are slated to get Rs 50,000 and the ones with serious injuries will get Rs 2.5 lakh.
Bisht, who is demanding a guarantee that no other project in the future shall be undertaken at the cost of a person’s life, also wants an increase in the compensation for the deceased.