Skip to main content

Official 'negligence' behind rural jobs scheme worker Lakhan's suicide in Jharkhand

The well constructed by Lakhan
Counterview Desk
The Jharkhand NREGA Watch, in a Fact Finding Report on the death of Lakhan Mahto, 43, last week, has said that the chief reason for his suicide is failure of the government administration, which refused to re-imburse the “outstanding amount of Rs 1,18,545 from the government for the wages and material payments”, which he badly needed in order repay the loan he had taken from informal sources. 
Calling it a “major administrative failure”, as Lakhan was “literally forced to take risky loans while the government has the responsibility to make all payments under MGNREGA and the beneficiaries are not supposed to invest a single penny”, the report states that “28 other MGNREGA well beneficiaries are also facing similar situations.”

Text of the report:

On July 25, 2019, Lakhan Mahto, 43, a resident of Patratu village of Patratu Gram panchayat in Chanho block, jumped into a well that he himself had constructed and gave his life. He was the lone earning member of the household. While the family was dependent on cultivation, Lakhan also had to work as labourer for coping with the distress. Lakhan’s 85-year-old mother (Gujari Devi), 36-year-old wife (Vimala Devi) and three children Suraj (18 years), Neeraj (15 years) and Praveen (12 years) were the other members of the family.

Cause of death

Lakhan Mahto had constructed a well under the Mahatma Gandhi Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGREGA) on his land. The work code of this scheme is 3401005010/IF/7080901221509 and was sanctioned in December 2017. Lakhan had to pay for the materials as well as for the labour wages as the payments were not made on time. He had to take loans for this purpose and was hoping that the money will be soon received from the government.
However, despite a lot of efforts he could not get back the money for materials which he had already invested. This resulted in a lot of stress and soon, Lakhan was under great psychological trauma and depression.
On the day of the tragedy, Lakhan woke up at around 4’o clock in the morning and went to the nearby farm where he had the well, constructed. When he did not return for a long time, people went in search for him and found him dead inside the well.
Lakhan's wife

Administration's negligence

Lakhan’s wife, Vimla Devi, said that her husband had to borrow a total Rs 1.70 Lakh from three of his relatives between January and February 2018 for completion of the well, but he could not repay the loan even after 14 months as wages and material payments were not released to the concerned labourers and vendors in their bank accounts, by the government.
It is a major administrative failure that Lakhan was literally forced to take risky loans while the government has the responsibility to make all payments under MGNREGA and the beneficiaries are not supposed to invest a single penny.
Further, it is important to understand that Lakhan had to pay to the labourers at a local rate which is much higher than the then MGNREGA wage rate of Rs 168 per day. The block administration could not ensure a timely material supply to the worksite which compelled him to take loan from others for procuring the materials in order to complete the scheme.
Lakhan, for the last 13 months, had been regularly visiting the block office, hoping for re-imbursement of the outstanding amount of Rs 1,18,545 from the government for the wages and material payments. Apart from Lakhan Mahto, in Patratu Panchayat, 28 other MGNREGA well beneficiaries are also facing similar situations.

Present situation

Even after five days of this tragic event, the government has neither offered a single benefit or compensation to the family and nor had paid the outstanding money which led to the tragic death of Lakhan Mahto. The mother of Lakhan, Gujri Devi, an 85-year-old elderly lady, did not get the benefit of old age pension under the central pension scheme despite being eligible for the benefit. 
The ration received under the Annapurna Anna Yojana was discontinued in December 2010. While she has submitted applications at the Panchayat and Block level several times, her grievances still remain unheard and unaddressed.
The family has not yet been offered the benefits of National Family Benefit Scheme (NFBS) under the National Social Assistance programme (NSAP) wherein the family is suppose to get a onetime compensation of Rs 20,000 after the death of the earning member of the family.
Lakhan's family members

Baseless claims by the administration

During interaction with the family members the fact finding committee had found out that the claims made by the Block administration that Lakhan was drunk and intoxicated during the time of the incident, is baseless and false. The neighbours and family members had shared that Lakhan was never addicted to alcohol.

Jharkhand NREGA Watch demands that:

  1. As per the notification 4-110 (NREGA)/ 10 RDD 4716, Ranchi, dated 01/08/2011, immediate compensation should be paid to the dependents of Lakhan Mahto.
  2. The family members should be provided Rs. 20000 immediately as per the National Family Benefit Scheme(NFBS) 
  3. VImla Devi, wife of late Lakhan Mahto, should be enrolled under the widow pension scheme and the administration must ensure the payments of the same with immediate effect. 
  4. The pending material payments for the scheme should be made immediately and re-imbursement of the to Lakhan’s family must be ensured. 
  5. We demand strong administrative action against the responsible officials who had failed to make on time payments which in turn led to the tragic incident. The department should identify the responsible persons and file criminal cases against them as soon as possible. 
  6. The state government should take appropriate and effective steps to eradicate the complexity in material procurement and payments.

Comments

TRENDING

Mallika Sarabhai releases speech she was 'not allowed' to give at NID Convocation on Feb 7

Counterview Desk
The National Institute of Design (NID) in Ahmedabad, a Ministry of Commerce and Industry body, landed itself in controversy following its decision to put off its 40th convocation ceremony, where noted danseuse Mallika Sarabhai was invited as chief guest. The ceremony was scheduled to be held on February 7.

Modi, Shah 'forget': Gandhi’s first Satyagraha was against citizenship law of South Africa

By Nachiketa Desai*
Hindu fanatic Nathuram Godse assassinated Mahatma Gandhi once on January 30, 1948 but his followers raising the war cry of ‘Jai Sriram’ are killing the Mahatma every day. In his home state of Gujarat, Gandhiji was killed a thousand times in 2002 when over 2,000 Muslims were butchered, their women raped, homes and shops plundered and set on fire and even unborn babies ripped out of the wombs of their mothers.

Across the board, among Muslims, Hindus, there's enormous fury at Delhi Police: Report

Counterview Desk
A quick report, prepared by Delhi's concerned citizens, "Let Us Heal Our Dilli", based on one-day visit (February 27) to several areas and mohallas of North East Delhi affected by the riots that gripped the country's capital -- Bhajanpura, Chand Bagh, Gokulpuri, Chaman Park, Shiv Vihar, Main Mustafabad (including Bhagirathi Vihar and Brijpuri) -- has said everywhere there is "zero trust" towards that the police.

As corona virus 'travels' to rural areas, NGO begins training tribals, marginalised women

By Souparno Chatterjee*
The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared corona virus a pandemic. Originating from Wuhan in China, it has traversed the entire globe, almost, and claimed more than 16,000 lives already. That’s largely the urban population. In India, despite all the preparedness and war-like promptness to safeguard against the pandemic, several lives have been lost , and hundreds of individuals have tested positive.

Rani Laxmi Bai, Tatya Tope 'martyred' by East India Company, Scindia's forefathers

By Our Representative
In an email alert to Counterview, well-known political scientist Shamsul Islam has said that was “shameful for any political party in democratic India to keep children of Sindhias in their flock” given their role during the First War of Indian Independence (1857). In a direct commentary on Madhya Pradesh Congress leader Jyotiraditya Scindia moving over to BJP, Prof Islam has quote from a British gazetteer to prove his point.

Big 'danger' of NPR: A babu can tag anyone as doubtful citizen, Jharkhand meet told

' By Our Representative
People in large numbers from across Jharkhand gathered at the Raj Bhawan in Ranchi to demand that the Hemant Soren government reject National Population Register (NPR) and stop all NPR-related activities. The people’s organisations which participated in the dharna under the banner of the Jharkhand Janadhikar Mahasabha (JMM) resolved to intensify their struggle, insisting, NPR is not a Hindu-Muslim issue but is essentially anti-poor.

COVID-19: Dalit rights bodies regret, no relief plan yet for SCs, STs, marginalized

By Our Representative
In a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the National Dalit Watch-National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights, endorsed* by several other Dalit rights organizations, have insisted, the Government of India should particular care of the scheduled castes and tribes, trans folks, persons with disabilities and the women and children from these communities, while fighting against COVID-19 pandemic.

Gujarat govt plan to 'banish' Gandhian activist anti-democratic, unconstitutional

By Rohit Prajapati*
The current Central and Gujarat governments, and their bureaucracy, have been and are still unable to answer and address the concerns raised, with facts, figures, and constitutional provisions, regarding the terror of tourism in the name of the Statue of Unity and tourism projects surrounding it.

Haridwar Swamis lead Khudai Khidmatgar peace march in Delhi 'riot affected' areas

By Our Representative
A Khudai Kidmatgar team, which visited the riot-affected regions along with Swami Shivanand Saraswati and Swami Punyanand, has insisted that India's true heritage is the lesson of ‘vasudhaiv kutumbakam', and it is the responsibility of all to carry froward this legacy. Originally founded by Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan in 1930, also known as Frontier Gandhi, Khudai Khidmatgar is claimed to have been revived by young Gandhian activist Faisal Khan in 2011.