For almost 30 years, postman Umakant Mishra was forced to live the life of a pauper. During this time, he lost three children to diseases as he had no money to treat them. He had to sell off his house and agricultural land, and he and his wife worked as labourers to make both ends meet. All because of an allegation of having embezzled Rs57.60 from the post office, a charge which was finally proved wrong, but only 29 years later.
“The incident took place in 1984 and the court has acquitted me now. It is a big victory for me. But who will return the 29 years I lost and so much else that I have lost during these years,” asks Umakant (65) as he breaks down while talking on the phone with dna. Soon after being charged with embezzlement, Umakant was suspended from the Harjinder Nagar post office (Kanpur) and sent to jail. “I have suffered utter humiliation and misery for 29 long years for no fault of mine. I could face all the hardships but what pained me most was people staring at me as if I were a thief,” he says in a voice choked with emotion. “I was afraid of even going out of the house,” he adds.
From the day he was suspended, Umakant has not got a penny from the government, though he was entitled to subsistence allowance. As he lived in utter penury, his three-year-old daughter Nikku succumbed to acute diarrhea as there was no money to treat her. The same fate befell 10-year-old Daya Shankar who died of TB and seven-year-old Durgesh who died of pneumonia.
His son Gangaram is a heart patient and needs surgery which would cost Rs5 lakh.
“We have no money. We can only wait and see him die like our other three children. We are helpless,” says Umakant. His wife Geeta says they had to marry off their two daughters much before their legally marriageable age as “we could not take care of them”.
Umakant and Geeta are somehow pulling along, doing odd jobs, working as labourers. Now all they want is the salary dues and pension, and a government job for Gangaram.
“The court case is not the end. I know I will have to fight another long battle to recover my dues,” he says wearily.