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

Top upper caste judges 'biased' towards Dalit colleagues: US Bar Association report

By Rajiv Shah  A high profile report prepared by the influential  American Bar Association (ABA) Center for Human Rights , taking note of the fact that “in the 70-year history of the Indian Republic, only six Dalit judges have been appointed to the Supreme Court”, has taken strong exception to what it calls “lack of representation of Dalits” in the legal profession and the judiciary.

Unlike other revolutionaries, Hindutva icon wrote 5 mercy petitions to British masters

By Shamsul Islam*  The Hindutva icon VD Savarkar of the RSS-BJP rulers of India submitted not one, two,or three but five mercy petitions to the British masters! Savarkarites argue: “There are no evidences to prove that Savarkar collaborated with the British for his release from jail. In fact, his appeal for release was a ruse. He was well aware of the political developments outside and wanted to be part of it. So he kept requesting for his release. But the British authorities did not trust him a bit” (YD Phadke, ‘A complex Hero’, "The Indian Expres"s, August 31, 2004)

Savarkar 'criminally betrayed' Netaji and his INA by siding with the British rulers

By Shamsul Islam* RSS-BJP rulers of India have been trying to show off as great fans of Netaji. But Indians must know what role ideological parents of today's RSS/BJP played against Netaji and Indian National Army (INA). The Hindu Mahasabha and RSS which always had prominent lawyers on their rolls made no attempt to defend the INA accused at Red Fort trials.

Whither SDG goal? India's maternal mortality rate fall target 5.5% per yr, actual 4.5%

By Srinivas Goli, Parul Puri* The maternal mortality ratio (number of maternal deaths per one lakh live births) is a key and sensitive parameter used by health policymakers to monitor maternal health conditions in particular and women's status in general in a country.

Fresh efforts to subsume Buddhism within Hindu fold 'undermining' Ambedkar

By Aviral Anand*  From Yeola in 1935, when Dr Ambedkar announced that he would not die a Hindu, to Nagpur in 1956 when he converted to Buddhism, is a considerable distance in time. But, there was in him a need to make a public announcement in 1935 about moving away from Hinduism. 

How green revolution led to 'deterioration' of Punjab economy, land, air and water

By Dr Gian Singh*  A recent research paper, based on a survey of 320 farming families in four districts of Punjab, has tried to show that high crop densities and the use of inputs have led to degradation of land, air, water and humans through a rich agricultural structure. Although mechanization has increased agricultural productivity, it has also caused environmental degradation.

Savarkar 'opposed' Bhagat Singh's, Netaji's dream of India, supported British war efforts

By Shamsul Islam* In a shocking development, the student wing of the RSS put the busts of martyrs Bhagat Singh and Subhash Chandra Bose with Savarkar's on one pedestal at the University of Delhi late in the night on August 20, 2019. Bhagat Singh sacrificed his life for a socialist-democratic-secular republic and Netaji raised Azad Hind Fauj (INA) consisting of people of all religions and regions for armed liberation of India.

Buddhist shrines were 'massively destroyed' by Brahmanical rulers: Historian DN Jha

Nalanda mahavihara By Our Representative Prominent historian DN Jha, an expert in India's ancient and medieval past, in his new book , "Against the Grain: Notes on Identity, Intolerance and History", in a sharp critique of "Hindutva ideologues", who look at the ancient period of Indian history as "a golden age marked by social harmony, devoid of any religious violence", has said, "Demolition and desecration of rival religious establishments, and the appropriation of their idols, was not uncommon in India before the advent of Islam".

Reverse progress in fight against hunger? 15.3% of India undernourished: GHI

By Harchand Ram*  Every year October 16 is observed as World Food Day to celebrate the date of the founding of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations. In the year 2021, the theme for World Food Day is “Our actions are our Future-Better Production, better nutrition, a better environment, and a better life”.

Abysmal deficit of water, food waste recycle treatment 'impacting' Chennai life

By Simi Mehta*  We are living in a state where the most basic needs like food and water are not assured to the people residing in the urban areas, which account for the biggest sources of food and water wastage. Socio-economic inequality in society which is pervasive in urban areas is one of the main reasons for this.