Mandawali deaths: SDM’s report contradicts two post-mortem reports

Four days after death of three sisters due to starvation in Mandawali comes an SDM’s report which contradicts postmortem reports issued by two hospitals. Is Delhi govt trying to hide its failings?

Photo by Sonu Mehta/Hindustan Times via Getty Images
Photo by Sonu Mehta/Hindustan Times via Getty Images

Zaheeb Ajmal

Four days after the death of three sisters due to starvation in Mandawali, New Delhi comes the report of the Sub-Divisional Magistrate, which completely overturns the post mortem reports issued by the hospital.

The report submitted by the SDM to the Aam Aaadmi Party state government states that "On the night before the incident, July 23, Mangal, the father of the children, had given all the three children some unknown medicine with hot water and the children died in the morning."

However, the doctors who had conducted the post-mortems of the three children, had ruled out any foul play or homicide. Amita Saxena, MS, Lal Bahadur Shastri Hospital, said, "There was no trace of fat on their bodies. Post-mortem showed the stomach was absolutely empty. It's a case of gross malnutrition,”, adding “This is the first time in all my years of working as a doctor that I have seen such gross starvation. We have ruled out any other cause.”

“Poisoning or any medicine having a reaction is also not possible because most medicines need some body fat to work; the fat reservoirs of the children were completely depleted. Plus, if there were any kind of reaction there would have been signs of it on the organs, probably oedema (swelling caused by a fluid leak from the capillaries) in the stomach, which was not the case,” the doctor added.

The second autopsy conducted at Guru Tegh Bahadur Hospital also confirmed the LBS Hospital findings.

The contradiction in the autopsy and magisterial probe raises pertinent questions.:

  • Why has only part and not the entire report been made public?
  • What was the procedure followed by the SDM in the probe?
  • How did the probe, conducted by an SDM who is not a doctor, reveal what two separate post-mortems could not?
  • How come the SDM caome to the conclusion that the father had given the girls “unknown medicine” and not anyone else?
  • Is this some kind of cover up for the failure of government machineries and schemes in protecting the three daughters?
Neighbours of Mangal remember him as a good father, who loved his daughter and worked hard to send them to school

Some Opposition leaders have also raised the question on the functioning of the state government. Former Congress MLA Anil Chaudhary from Patparganj constituency while talking to NH said, “The report by SDM is to mislead people. It is a cover-up. If there had been poison in children body, it would have been revealed in the post-mortem itself. They are not ready to accept the medical report. The attempt is being made from the very first day to divert the issue.”

Another report prepared by the Integrated Child Development Services through Delhi government’s women and child development department stated that benefits under the Angawadi scheme and the National Food Security Act could not reach the children because the family “used to shift houses” often.

“The benefits could not reach her as the family used to keep moving houses. Sometimes they have even gone to West Bengal to stay for a few months,” an official from the department said.

This also raises question on the Anganwadi functioning in the national capital. Mandawali area falls in the assembly constituency of Delhi Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia, and Mangal’s house is only 500 meters away from an Anganwadi centre. As per the norms, the Anganwadi workers have to daily visit homes and provide food to needy children.

“This is a clear case of Anganwadi system failure. If they would have worked honestly, the children would have been enrolled and would have receive the benefit of it. They have to provide meals to needy children. There is a process of getting health checkup of every child at school every year, it has failed too,” said Chaudhary.

Neighbours of Mangal remember him as a good father, who loved his daughter and worked hard to send them to school. Subhash, a migrant labour and neighbour of Mangal said, “He worked really hard to make both ends meet. He used to earn, so that he could send his child to school. I saw him as someone who worked really hard to look after his children.”

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