Thanks to two alert constables, three-year-old Sangeeta, who was taken away by a limping man while she was sleeping with her parents at the Chhattrapati Shivaji Terminus in Mumbai almost a month ago, was recovered safely at the Haridwar bus stand on Saturday.
Constables Pankaj Giri and Dilwar immediately nabbed Raju. A CCTV footage released by the Railway police on Friday came in handy for them. It showed a limping man alighting from a train on June 10 and wandering around the CST before spotting a family with the sleeping baby. He then sat beside her and took her away.
“We grew suspicious of the limping man carrying a baby girl and interrogated him,” said the constables. The accused then admitted to the crime.
Uttarakhand Director-General of Police has announced a cash award of Rs. 10,000 for the constables.
Haridwar Senior Superintendent of Police Arun Mohan Joshi told journalists that it appeared Raju brought the child to the pilgrimage city to use her for begging. He visited Haridwar at least twice before and knew about the begging potential there.
Mumbai Railway Police Commissioner Prabhat Kumar was informed of the recovery of the child and a police team was on its way to Haridwar to take her back to her parents.
Sangeeta’s parents, who are very poor, were overjoyed when they heard their daughter’s voice on the phone, Mr. Joshi said.
The ordeal ends
The couple, who live in Parbhani district in the backward region of Marathwada in Maharashtra, have identified their daughter from the television footage.
However, the police have to still complete the verification process by showing them the photograph of the girl found in Haridwar.
“We do not have any photograph of the girl. So we have asked the Haridwar police to send us a photo,” Surendranath Deshmukh, senior inspector at the CST railway police station, told journalists.
“It so happened that a few television channels went there [the couple’s village] and showed the footage to the parents who confirmed that the girl is their daughter,” Mr. Prabhat Kumar told The Hindu.
Kanhaiya Khandelwal, a local NDTV correspondent, who visited the parents, told The Hindu on the phone that when he showed the footage, the mother identified her daughter.
“They have not yet heard from the police,” he said.
The family, which belongs to the disadvantaged Pardhi community, leads a hand-to-mouth existence in a remote village in Palam taluk.
“They are labourers with a meagre earning. During the monsoon they came to Mumbai to do some drainage work. They missed the train back home from the CST station. Therefore, they decided to take the morning train and spent the night at the station when Sangeeta was abducted,” Mr. Khandelwal said.
“They stay in a small 6X7 feet house with their five children, including Sangeeta. They thanked the police and the media.”
The police heaved a sigh of relief that Sangeeta was “not sexually exploited,” Mr. Deshmukh said. He said that so far no link with any organised begging ring had been found. Raju was working as a cleaner.
A police team has left for Parbhani.