The 10-day Ganpati celebrations came to an abrupt end in Chondipada village, Jawhar taluka, on the morning of September 15.
As villagers gathered for aarti at the community pandal, they heard wails from a hut a few metres away.
The scene that greeted them was heart-rending: Sitaram Pandu Gavanda (28) was hanging from the ceiling of his thatched hut. His wife Kamal (26) was sitting on the floor dazed and unresponsive as the eldest of her three children, Nilesh (10), wailed while trying to bring his father’s body down. Her two daughters —Yashoda (7) and Ashmita (1) — were also crying.
Everyone in the village knows what drove Gavanda to suicide: Poverty. This is not the first time a villager had taken a desperate step because of poverty in Jawhar. As reported by HT on September 20, the village recently saw a widow sell her newborn for Rs 400. Jawhar, a three-hour drive from Mumbai, is home to 1.27 lakh people, of whom 90 per cent are poor tribals.
Villagers cremated Gavanda’s body without reporting the suicide to the administration.
Ramchandra Barph, police patil (the administrative contact in a village), said Gavanda committed suicide because he was poor. “There is no ambulance. Private vehicles charge Rs 3,000 to take the body to the hospital at Jawhar for post-mortem and bring it back. The family can’t afford it,” he said, explaining why no one told the police. “In the poor, tribal villages, many suicides are driven by poverty.”
“Five to seven per cent of unnatural deaths among Jawhar’s tribals are suicide. But the reasons have never been investigated,” said S.R. Purbhe, police inspector, Jawhar, who had not heard of Gavanda’s suicide.