‘I was Forced to Accept Money to Cover up My Son’s Death’

13-05-15 Banda Taza - Boy Labourer Dies webPara Bihari panchayat, Bisanda block, Banda. A 13-year old Dalit boy died when the section of the sand bank he was working in collapsed here on 10 May. His father alleged that he was forced to accept money to not take the case to the police and let the investigation take its course.

The father of the dead boy, Chhedilal, said his son and daughter were taken to work on the sand bank by a Kurmi man, Babu, who could not be located. Another source in the village, who did not want to be identified, said that Babu’s relative, who owned the tractor in which the sand was being collected, had brought some chaff to sell, and thought he could cover his travel costs by taking some sand back. ‘He was from Bisanda block, although I am not sure which village. He asked Babu to get some kids to help, and would have paid them 50-100 rupees.’

The boy’s sister Roshni says that she and her brother were working in a sand bank along the Gadra river. ‘I was taking a load of sand to the tractor when the sand bank beneath us gave way, and my brother was buried under it. Everyone helped remove the sand and take my brother out from beneath. He was still breathing then. But by the time we reached the village, he had died.’

Chhedilal said that the Bisanda police arrived almost immediately. ‘When I said the matter should be investigated, a group of upper caste men from the village said that if the matter reaches the police station or the court, they would have me removed from the village. This group of men told me that I should accept 60,000 rupees and give it to them in writing that the death of my son was no one’s fault. Only when this letter of compromise was signed would my son’s body be handed over to me.’

The constable at the Bisanda police station said that by the time they reached the village, the family had already signed a compromise document, accepting 60,000 rupees to close the case. ‘If there is a request to investigate further, we definitely will do so.’ However, sources in the village, as well as the family insist that the police were complicit in facilitating the compromise. This is most likely, in an economy where illegal sand mining and dangerous conditions of labour are part of everyday life and subsistence.

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