Mumbai: 26/11 witness struggling to make ends meet in COVID-19 lockdown
Family of Devika Rotawan who, aged 9, was shot in the leg during the 2008 terror attack, hit hard by lockdown, unable to even pay rent
Devika Rotawan, 21, became the poster girl of Bandra when she testified in the 26/11 terror trial identifying terrorist Ajmal Kasab as the man who shot her. She was nine years old when she was shot in the leg at CSMT. She was with her father Natwarlal and brother Jayesh. Her father and brother were safe. Today Devika is a first year Bachelor of Arts student at Chetana College in Bandra East and she finds her troubles compounded in the lockdown.
The family lives in Subash Nagar, Bandra East, in a rented accommodation. "Our problems have intensified in the lockdown," said Devika, adding that her family had been struggling for a few years now. My brother Jayesh, 25, has not been in the best of health for years, as he had to undergo two spine surgeries, because of which he is unable to lift heavy parcels or sit in one place for long. He used to do a few odd jobs, running errands between shops and earn a little from that, but even that has stopped due to the pandemic. My father does a few sporadic jobs but does not have a fixed income. I suffered from tuberculosis some years ago, and lost some time during my study years because of its treatment. I want to join the Indian Police Service or carve out another career for myself, but we are really pressed for funds."
Devika Rotawan along with her family at their Bandra East residence on Monday. Pic/Anurag Ahire
On Sunday evening, Congress MLA Zeeshan Siddique visited the family and said, "I met the family at their home and was struck by their difficulties, which have increased now. I learnt about their plight via social media. I have given them a cheque of '50,000, which will help them pay the rent for a couple of months. I am going to press for a home for the family, requesting Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray to take note." Devika said, "We had been promised a home by the government but we are still waiting for it. I have got rewards and recognition for my bravery, but the promise of a home remains unfulfilled. We are thankful that Siddique sir visited us and gave us money for rent."
Her father, Natwarlal Rotawan said, "During the pandemic, we saw photographs of netas visiting different people to alleviate their troubles. This is the first time in 12 years a leader visited us."
Devika added, "I am just so tired of telling people my story. Some people from the collector's office visited us in 2011 with forms and got some formalities completed. They said this was for the house we are supposed to get. Then suddenly everything fizzled out. Even the phone number they left with us was supposedly a wrong one. On one hand we have Prime Minister Narendra Modi espousing 'beti bachao, beti padhao', on the other there is no action on the home yet. Is this deliberate? I want an answer." Ujjwal Nikam, the high-profile special public prosecutor in the 26/11 case said, "I recall Devika Rotawan being a very voluble, intelligent girl."
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