On the street where Mangal, his mentally unstable wife and three minor daughters used to reside till Saturday, neighbours said the family was regularly given rations by them because Mangal used to disappear for days, allegedly after getting drunk.

Mansi (8), Shikha (4) and Parul (2), daughters of Mangal, a native of West Bengal and a rickshawpuller by profession, starved to death on Tuesday, the preliminary autopsy report said.

The family’s former neighbours claimed that Mr. Mangal lived in Mandawali Fazalpur area for over 15 years but in different rooms. For the last three months, he was living in gali number 13 with his family. He shifted to a room a few km away near Pandit Chowk on Saturday.

“Mangal was an alcoholic. He used to be away for four-five days after which he would come back on his own. We were all aware of his habit, therefore, the neighbours used to give his family rice, pulses, vegetables; sometimes even money,” said Mithilesh Kumar who lives in a room above where Mr Mangal and his family used to live.

The neighbours unanimously said that if the family stayed in the same room, the children wouldn’t have died.

Vijay (42), another former neighbour and fellow riskshaw puller, who knows Mr Mangal for the last 15 years, said that the man used to run an eatery in the area till about three years ago but “because of alcohol addiction, could not pay rent and had to shut”.

For a few months after, he did odd jobs and finally started pulling rikshaw. “For the last three months he was living in this room, the rent of which is Rs 1,200. He used to give money in installments and sometimes, not even that but I did not ask him to leave. They left by themselves with a family friend,” said landlord Pankaj. Other neighbours agreed.

Little Heena (10), student of class V who used to go to the same government school as Mr. Mangal’s eldest daughter Mansi, student of class III, said that the two used to go together but Mansi wasn’t attending school for the last one month as she was unwell. “Mansi had a pus filled bump on her head so she couldn’t come to school. All three sisters used to come to play to our house every day,” she said.

Recalling her last meeting, Heena said she met the girls around 11am on Saturday, hours before they left. “They had rice and vegetables before they left. They seemed okay,” the friend said.

The police said that Mr Mangal has still not been found and teams have been formed to find him. He had left his house three days ago allegedly to look for work. Ms Beena, the family friend Narayan, and a few others were questioned at Sub Divisional Magistrate’s office as part of the inquest proceedings.

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