The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has issued notices to the secretary, Union ministry of rural development, and chief secretaries of seven states on the basis of an HT investigation which revealed that poor labourers were committing suicide due to delayed payments under MGNREGA.
NHRC has asked for reports from the state governments and the ministry of rural development within six weeks. MGNREGA is the UPA’s flagship scheme that promises 100 days of work for wages in a year.
The commission took suo motu cognizance of the HT investigation, published on December 29, which highlighted how in Congress-ruled Maharashtra, at least five workers — Madhav Sonaji Raut, Amruta Gore, Datta Maghade, Prahlad Kokate and Changunabai Dakore — had ended their lives as they were not paid wages for more than three years. Similarly, in Jharkhand, HT had tracked two suicides – Tapas Soren (Hazaribagh) and Jaggu Bhuiyan (Palamu).
HT reported that there was delay in payment of wages for about 27 lakh labourers in West Bengal, 18.20 lakh in Bihar, 13.40 lakh in Kerala, 11 lakh in Rajasthan and 8.7 lakh in Andhra Pradesh under the MGNREGA in 2012-2013.
After the story was first published, Jairam Ramesh, Union rural development minister, had written to the Maharashtra and Jharkhand CMs describing the suicides as "shocking".
"The commission has issued notices to the secretary, union ministry of rural development and chief secretaries of the governments of Maharashtra, Jharkhand, West Bengal, Bihar, Kerala, Rajasthan and Andhra Pradesh calling reports in the matter within six weeks," an NHRC statement said.