RAIPUR: April 28 was usual in its sameness and grim in its foreboding: A Covid-induced lockdown had forced most residents of Chhattisgarh’s capital indoors.
Pankaj (5) and Mohan (8) (names changed) were playing with other kids near their one-room rented home in the Kushabhau Thakre area. The kids were told their father was unwell and taken to hospital.
Four days later, their mother was admitted to the same hospital. On May 4, their parents died. The kids were not told of the tragedy.
The last rites were performed by Raipur Municipal Corporation authorities as per Covid protocol.
When their parents were in hospital, neighbours provided food and care to the children.
They didn’t know how to handle the kids. Nobody knew exactly where the family arrived from to settle in Raipur to work as daily wagers.
“A day after their death, we knocked on their door, the children came out and started looking for their parents. We comforted them by saying God is there to help. They didn’t demand anything except food. They were at ease in our presence and stayed indoors,” said Raghu Yadav, a neighbour.
Three days passed, and the neighbours still could not muster the courage to tell the kids about the tragedy.
The couple was engaged in construction works under the Basic Services for Urban Poor (BSUP) scheme.
The BSUP seeks to address the needs of some of the lowest-income and most vulnerable urban dwellers.
“First, the husband and later the wife fell ill. It was with Covid. The man died and two days later, the wife also succumbed”, says Sushila Dheevar, corporator of Raipur Municipal Corporation (RMC).
She avoided revealing the names and details of the couple.
“Our party has told us not to share personal details of patients we support. Such people are unsettled migrant labourers, they stay as long as they remain engaged. I don’t know anything about the children,” she said.
Pankaj and Mohan had some inkling about the virus that has made a lot of people sick.
They felt like any other illness, their parents would also be cured of it. Mukesh Srivas, a local social worker, quoted a doctor as saying that the parents were brought late to the hospital.
“Doctors felt the delay in medical care apparently pushed back chances of recovery,” said Srivas, who has helped many during this crisis.
Dheevar and others interacted with the kids and got some information about their relatives who could be reached. Finally, the kids’ paternal grandparents were contacted over the phone.
“Their grandparents live in some remote village of Allahabad in Uttar Pradesh. They were deeply shocked after learning about the deaths. They came to Raipur and took the children along with them to Allahabad,” said Manohar Chand, a resident of the ward.