VIJAYAWADA: Vempati Praveen, a 14-year-old, is battling for life with 70 per cent burns at Government General Hospital of Vijayawada. He was allegedly set on fire by Katuri Venkateswara Rao, warden of Mother Theresa orphanage on Republic Day in Marepalli in A Konduru mandal near Vijayawada.
Praveen, from hospital bed, said that he was set on fire by the warden.
The accused reportedly was angry and went out of control when Praveen refused to obey his orders of doing scavenging works at the orphanage. In a fit of rage, Venkateswar allegedly poured petrol on Praveen and set him on fire.
“He set me ablaze. I cried asking him to save me as flames were rising all around. He then threatened that he would not save me unless I give a declaration that I attempted suicide,” Praveen said.
According to Aduri Manith, Praveen’s cousin who also lives at the orphanage, the warden poured petrol on Praveen and set him on fire around 4 pm.
“Later, the warden, two other inmates and I shifted Praveen to a local clinic in an auto rickshaw but the doctor was not available. Then we shifted him to Konduru hospital through 108 ambulance. Then they brought Praveen to Vijayawada General Hospital at about 10 the same night. The warden instructed Praveen to give a statement that he attempted self-immolation. Praveen accordingly did it out of fear when a magistrate recorded his statement at the hospital,” Manith told Express.
According to Deputy Superintendent of Police, Nuzvid, T S V Ramana, based on the Vijayawada police and magistrate’s statement, the police came to the conclusion that the boy set himself on fire. But, Kondur police are recording the statements of remaining students.
“We will initiate action against the warden if found guilty,” said the police.
However, the warden told Express that he did not pour petrol on the boy and that he himself attempted suicide as he was depressed after his grandmother pulled him up for continuing to steal pens and mobile phones.
“I was with remaining children when the incident took place. The boy set himself on fire in the verandah. I take care of the children like my own,” Venkateswar Rao said.