A 13-year-old girl’s heartbreaking video, begging her father to pay for her medical treatment, has gone viral on social media, just days after she passed away. Diagnosed with bone marrow cancer, Sai Sri’s story has not only moved hundreds, but also had the State Human Rights Commission (SHRC) in Andhra Pradesh take up her case following her death.
Taking note of a petition that alleged the Vijayawada girl’s father did not spend money for his daughter’s treatment, even though he could afford it, the SHRC on Monday ordered the city Commissioner of Police to submit a detailed report on the incident.
According to Achyuta Rao from the Balala Hakkula Sangham, the NGO which moved the SHRC, Sai Sri was diagnosed with bone marrow cancer, and was in dire need of a treatment.
To make things worse, the girl's mother, Suma Sri, alleged that when she tried to sell the house, which was under Sai Sri's name to meet medical expenses, her husband Shiva Kumar stopped her, with the help of TDP MLA Bonda Umamaheswara Rao,
Suma alleged that the MLA's men 'encroached' upon the house, and didn't let her sell it.
It all began two days ago, after local media channels broadcast a video message by Sai Sri that she reportedly sent to her father, days before she died.
According to reports, Sri's parents had split when she was a baby, and she lived with her mother in Vijayawada, while her father lived in Bengaluru.
In the video, she is seen saying, "Daddy. You say that you don't have money. At least we have this house. Please sell this house and pay for my treatment daddy. Or else, they (doctors) say that I won't survive for long. Please do something and save me."
“I haven’t gone to school in months. I want to play with my friends. If they complete my treatment, I will happily go back to school. My hands and feet hurt. I need the treatment. Mother really doesn’t have the money. If you think that she will take your money, then you take me to the hospital, and get me treated,” she adds, between sobs.
Sri's mother said that she was first diagnosed with cancer on 27 August 2016, when she had a fever and they conducted a blood test.
"As soon as she was diagnosed, we immediately went to a private hospital in Hyderabad. Doctors said that it was a serious case and a bone marrow transplant was the only way of ensuring that she lived," Suma told NTV.
"First, they said it would cost Rs 10 lakh for chemotherapy and another Rs 30 lakh for bone marrow transplant. I didn't have that kind of money, so I called her father. He asked me to bring her to Bengaluru, and said that he would help her survive and make her study. In February 2017, I took her there," she added.
However, the mother claimed that Sri's father did not provide her with treatment even though she trusted him.
“On 2 March, she called me and cried. When I asked her what happened, she said that her father was manhandling her and misbehaved with her. I immediately brought her back and went to the police station. When I went to the police station, Bonda Uma used his influence and didn’t accept my case,” Suma said.
When she tried to sell the house to raise money, Suma alleged that the MLA's men entered their house and began residing there after the previous tenants left.
She said that they didn't resort to physical methods, but they would always intimidate her, and did not let her sell the house.
Sai Sri finally succumbed to the cancer on 14 May.
"Today, she (Sri Sai) is dead. She wanted to be a doctor. She would always tell me that," she added, as she broke down.
However, responding to the allegations, Bonda Uma said, "The couple have been separated for a long time. The opposition is bringing up an MLA's name for every issue. The opposition is politicising the death of a young girl, and I condemn this strongly. There is no connection to me in this case."
"Even when a child with cancer has died, the opposition is distorting the facts and slinging mud on TDP leaders and blaming an MLA," he added.
The MLA also assured Suma Sri via the media, that the state government was ready to extend any necessary help to her.
However, the mother responded denying Uma's claims.
“When a 13-year-old is suffering from cancer, being an MLA, you didn’t offer any help. Why didn’t you come forward before? When people were in my house, saying your name, why didn’t you speak up?” she asked.
The police said that the case had been brought to their notice, and they had begun investigating it.
Vijayawada Police Commissioner Gautam Sawang also met with Suma and assured her that they would look into the case.
Speaking to the media, Deputy Commissioner of Police G Palaraju said:
There are several issues here. The moral issue is that he allegedly didn’t fulfil his duty as a father in taking care of his daughter. Secondly, as far as the property is concerned, the father had written it off to his daughter in 2003. Therefore, it does belong to her.
Responding to allegations that the police didn't register her case before, Palaraju said, "She came to us on 24 March and said that a man called Ravi was living in the house and intimidating them. We had seen the girl that day, and she was struggling to climb the stairs."
"We summoned Ravi, and strictly warned him to not indulge in such activities, but she did not tell us anything about the other allegations. She has mentioned only those in the complaint filed after the girl's death. We will look into those too," he added.
However, he also claimed that Suma had preferred to approach the media first at that time, rather than approach the police.
"We were the ones who saw the news on electronic media and called her. At that time, she just said that one person was living in her house," he claimed.
Meanwhile, Achyuta Rao in his petition to the SHRC said:
The act of the girl’s father Shiva Kumar, his brothers, Bonda Uma and his associates is a severe violation of the child’s right to live. We ask the SHRC to direct the Vijayawada Police Commissioner to probe this and book criminal cases on the accused and arrest them in the interest of justice to the child.
The SHRC has asked the Police Commissioner for a report by 20 July 2017.
Despite multiple attempts, TNM could not contact Palaraju to confirm if a case has been registered on the incident.
(The story was originally published on The News Minute.)