Rural Development minister Jairam Ramesh wrote to the Maharashtra and Jharkhand chief ministers on Monday asking them to act on findings of HT’s "shocking" investigation that established that workers enrolled under the UPA’s flagship Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) were committing suicide due to a delay in the disbursement of wages.
"I am sending you a report that appeared in the Hindustan Times on Sunday. The news item is shocking. It highlights that there have been five suicide cases – one in 2011, three in 2012 and again one in 2013 on account of delayed payments…. I would request the state government to take immediate action…" said Ramesh in his letter to Maharashtra chief minister Prithviraj Chavan.
Similarly, in a letter to Jharkhand CM Hemant Soren, Ramesh quoted from the HT report published on December 29, saying that the state must investigate the cause of two suicides (one in 2008 and other in 2012) immediately.
Ramesh further pulled the Maharashtra government and said, "Whatever be the results of your investigation, the fact remains that we still have delay in payment and misappropriations of wages and these are simply unacceptable. As of today, 37% of the total wage payments amounting to `217 crore have been delayed by more than 30 days."
In its investigation published on December 29, HT highlighted how at least five MGNREGA workers in Congress-ruled Maharashtra committed suicide because they weren’t paid wages for over three years.
The workers — Madhav Sonaji Raut, Amruta Gore, Datta Maghade, Prahlad Kokate and Changunabai Dakore — were employed under the scheme in Aurangabad district.
In Jharkhand, HT tracked suicides of two workers — Tapas Soren (Hazaribagh) and Jaggu Bhuiyan (Palamu) — and found they had also killed themselves because of a delay in the payment of wages.
When HT interacted with the families of these workers, it found that in each case the workers took loans from moneylenders or relatives after not being paid. They took the final step when they found themselves unable to repay these loans.