New Delhi: It was a slow week and the Diwali weekend had just got over. Festivity was still in the air. A few of my friends wanted me to join them for an early morning ride through the pristine Lutyen's Delhi.
Being mid week and in a profession that demands 24 hours a day, I ended up not going with them to usher in the winter. Little did I know I would be up and early in the locality working to expose the grim of its dirty underbelly.
A 35-year-old Bangladeshi immigrant, sold by a placement agency to Dhananjay Singh, the powerful MP from Jaunpur in Eastern UP, had been allegedly murdered by the 29-year-old doctor wife of the BSP strongman at the official residence of the respected Member of Parliament.
Beaten, burned and treated like animals Meena and a minor boy are now the star witnesses in the murder case.
Dhananjay paid around Rs 1 lakh to a middle man named Dev to procure Rakhi in February and that was the last time she saw the world outside 175, South Avenue. Nine months later her body was sent to the Ram Manohar Lohia hospital mortuary. Both 175 and 126 South Avenue, Chanakyapuri, are the official residences of the BSP MP from Jaunpur. Flat No. 175 was primarily occupied by his wife Dr Jagriti Singh who is ironically a senior resident in the same RML hospital.
Since the MP had filed for divorce last June, he would rarely stay back in this flat, though he would come often to meet his 4-year-old son.
Apart from Rakhi there were two other domestic helps. A 17-year-old boy and Meena, who was in her early thirties. Beaten, burned and treated like animals these two are now the star witnesses in the murder case.
For they bear testimony, not only to the torture that was meted out to them, but also to the brutal murder of Rakhi. Dhananjay Singh too was aware of this inhuman torture but did nothing to save them.
Details of the FIR
According to the FIR within months of joining, Rakhi got a sense of what awaited her. On April 1 Jagriti beat up Rakhi with a broom for not making the food as per her taste. Not content with it, she also chopped off her hair to satisfy her rage.
The minor says, "Jagriti used to beat us on the smallest of the issues; she never felt any sympathy for us. Not even when blood would drip from Rakhi's body. She would ask me to wash the blood spots, while she carried on hitting her. Once she hit me with antlers when the motor of the aquarium stopped working while I was filling water in it."
The FIR goes on to read: "Once she hit Rakhi so hard that the stick broke, then Jagriti used the sharp edges of the broken stick to hit Rakhi. Whenever MP Saab (Dhananjay) would come home we would complain to him. But he would change topic and say 'why do you make mistakes? Other servants too have worked here'. He too had hit us with his shoes a couple of times."
Rakhi used to look after their 4-year-old son. And whenever the child would cry she would be beaten up.
But here comes the most sordid bit. The final assault that continued for days from November 1 when Rakhi woke up around 4 am instead of the scheduled 3:50 am. She hit Rakhi with sticks and kicked her hard. Jagriti then called the MP a little later in the day and told him Rakhi will have to pay for her mistakes and she will kill her. Next day an injured Rakhi was a little slow at her work and this infuriated Jagriti.
She kept beating her for hours and made her sleep out in the open on a night when the Delhi winter was showing its first glimpses. Later in the night the senior resident dentist of RML hit her with a stick again and refused to give her any food.
On November 4, she asked the minor domestic help to wake up Rakhi around 4:30 am. But she did not wake up. Later at around 8:30 am he went to check on her again. This time her body had gone cold, her gaze fixed. And that was the end of Rakhi.
Role of the MP
When the dentist wife realised that she has killed the maid, she called her husband who was in Jaunpur at that time. Dhananjay flew back to take control of the situation. He got the blood stains washed and sent the other maid to a relative's place.
The MP threatened the minor with dire consequences if he said a word to anyone. Mukesh Meena, Joint CP, New Delhi Range said, "He tampered with the DVR of the CCTV camera which were fixed inside the house and did not inform the police about the murder till rather late."
While she was dead by 8:30 am, the police were only informed by 8 pm. For this the powerful MP too was arrested and charged under Destruction of Evidence and Juvenile Justice Act.
Story of the other domestic helps
There are 20 CCTV cameras fixed inside 175, South Avenue. Even the toilet used by the helps had cameras installed. The condition of the third help too is rather serious.
Meena told the magistrate in her statement that Jagriti broke her hip bone and burned her buttocks with hot iron. She was made to eat like an animal, with her hands and legs on the ground. She would be forced to use her mouth to pick up food from the plate.
After Rakhi died, Meena was kept hidden at another place. Jagriti even spat on the food that was eaten by the helps. The juvenile in his statement claimed that once she suspected him of breaking a glass tumbler and as a punishment burnt his stomach with hot iron. She also used wooden replica of antelope horns to beat them up.
This went on for months. The helps were told that if they ever stepped outside they would be shot dead by the security guards standing outside the house. One day the minor boy was beaten up for speaking to the guard.
The case as of now
Both the husband and the wife are in police custody now. The probe has revealed that Rakhi (deceased) and Meena (seriously injured) were not paid a single paisa. Whenever they demanded money, the two were beaten up.
A onetime payment of around Rs 1 lakh was made to the agent who got Rakhi to them. The teenage domestic help was paid only Rs 5000 on two occasions in the past 12 months. Initial autopsy report says that Rakhi had wounds all over her body and her death was as a consequence of those wounds. The detailed post mortem report and the forensic reports of the DVR of the CCTV footage is expected by Monday.
SBS Tyagi, Deputy Commissioner of Police, New Delhi, says that they are looking at the option of slapping Posca (Prevention of Children Against Sexual Offences Act) and investigating the human trafficking angle as well. The trafficking aspect gathers steam because of the growing number of such cases that are coming to light. In the last one month Delhi has seen 3 major cases of abuse of the domestic helps.
Maid abuse and Delhi
On September 30 Vandana Dhir, a senior executive of a reputed multinational firm, was arrested for assaulting her domestic help, beating her and branding her with a hot girdle. The maid, who hails from Jharkhand, alleged that she was also forced to drink her urine and was kept by Dhir in her Vasant Kunj house in a semi-naked condition. She was rescued by a joint team of NGO Shakti Vahini and Delhi Police from Dhir's residence.
On October 29 police had rescued a minor maid from Netaji Nagar area of South Delhi. The employer used to beat the girl and locked her when she went abroad. The girl managed to escape from the roof and made a PCR call. The employer is an air hostess with a government airline and was not in the country when the maid was rescued. She was arrested upon her return and charged under sections of Juvenile Justice Act, Child Labour Act and Section 342 of IPC.
There is an urgent need to stop the rampant human trafficking and fly by night maid providing agencies. In cases after cases the trail turns cold as by the time police reach the agency, they have shut shops and moved on. The Delhi High Court too had stepped in after a PIL and had asked the government to regularise these agencies.
The High Court was informed on November 6, that 1,754 placement agencies have been registered under the Delhi Shops and Establishments Act. "The Delhi Private Placement Agencies (Regulation) Bill has been drafted after incorporating suggestions of various stakeholder," the division bench of Chief Justice NV Ramana and Justice Manmohan was told.
But even here there is a clear delay. The High Court had held way back in March 2012 that the bill should be enacted within two to three months but nothing has been done till date. There were TWO sessions and about 25 odd sittings of the Delhi Assembly since then but the bill was never tabled.
The last word
NGOs like Shakti Vahini and Bachpan Bachao Andolan who have rescued 1000s of people from being trafficked say that it is not just the poverty in a few backward states that are forcing them to work in such inhuman conditions. It is also the demand for cheap labour in the urban household which is fueling the cunning of a number of these placement agencies.
But the last three cases have actually thrown all the stereotypes of gender, education and urbaneness out of the window. The perpetrators here ,of the mindless violence, are educated, suave, sophisticated women.