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 Mr. Mangal used to disappear for days, allegedly after getting drunk.

Mansi (8), Shikha (4) and Parul (2), daughters of Mr. 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 the Mandawali Fazalpur area for over 15 years, but in different rooms. For the last three months, Mr. Mangal was living in Gali Number 13 with his family. He shifted to a room a few kilometres away, near Pandit Chowk, on Saturday.

‘Often away’

“Mangal was an alcoholic. He used to be away for 4-5 days after which he would come back on his own. We were all aware of his habits. Therefore, the neighbours used to give his family rice, pulses and vegetables, sometimes even money,” said Mithilesh Kumar, who lives in the room above where Mr. Mangal and his family were living.

The neighbours unanimously said that if the family had stayed in the same room, the children would not have died.

Vijay (42), another former neighbour and fellow riskshawpuller, who knew Mr. Mangal for the past 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 it down.”

He did odd jobs for a few months afterwards, and finally began pulling a rickshaw. “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 instalments and, sometimes, not even that, but I did not ask him to leave. They [Mr. Mangal and his family] 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, a 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.

Recalling her last meeting, Ms. Heena said she met the girls around 11 a.m. 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 was still not found and teams have been formed to find him. He left his house three days ago, allegedly to look for work. Ms. Bina, the mother, a family friend Narayan, and a few others, were questioned at the SDM’s office as part of the inquest proceedings.

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