A report commissioned by the ministry of rural development has confirmed the findings of an HT field investigation — published on December 29, 2013 — that delay in payment of wages under MGNREGA was a major contributor to suicides among workers in Maharashtra.
The report by the Committee of Experts (CoE) said: “Though the state government has made the claim that it is unfair to link the deaths of workers to non-payment of MGNREGA wages... there is no doubt that the workers who committed suicides were put under immense distress, which could have been alleviated by the timely payment of wage for their work done under MGNREGA. The case of suicides of workers is a clear violation of their human rights.”
The CoE recommended that Maharashtra immediately pay wages to MGNREGA workers.
The damning report went on to compare MGNREGA workers in Maharashtra to bonded labour. It also found widespread forgery: “Accounts have been opened of non-existent persons or persons who have not worked under MGNREGA.
This indicates the active connivance of the gram rozgar sahayak, sarpanch, programme officer at the block level, postal department officials in abetting irregular implementation of the Act in the state,” the report reads.
A copy of the report has been submitted to the national human rights commission, which had issued notices to the secretary, rural development ministry, and chief secretaries of seven states on the basis of the HT investigation.
HT had highlighted how 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 their wages under MGNREGA for more than three years in the Congress-NCP run state of Maharashtra.
The UPA’s flagship scheme requires that wages be paid to workers within three months. Similarly, in Jharkhand, HT had tracked two suicides – that of Tapas Soren (Hazaribagh) and Jaggu Bhuiyan (Palamu). Soon after the story broke, Union minister for rural development Jairam Ramesh had written to the CM’s of both states.
Read: Delayed NREGA payments drive workers to suicide