The government may have numerous schemes for the welfare of the economically backward and the scheduled castes. But none were of use to a couple belongingto the scheduled castes who,reeling under acute poverty,attempted suicide on Thursday evening in Umaria Sari village near Allahabad.
While Bachai Saroj (42) died in the state-owned Swaroop Rani Hospital,his wife Dukhna (35) is struggling for her life.
Bachais little plot was taken over for the construction of a panchayat road,but he got no compensation. A worker at a brick-kiln,his income was irregular. His brother Kallu said the last employer had not paid him the wages. The family had a BPL card,but they rarely had money to buy rations. Their NREGA card was never made although they had paid Rs 20 for it.
Now,the administration has woken up and announced a relief of Rs 1.2 lakh for the family,and ordered inquiries into the functioning of NREGA and the local fair price shop.
They were living in abject misery. The day after Holi,the couple did not eat anything in the morning. In the evening,I saw thick smoke coming out of the thatched roof. And the fire burst through, said Kewala Devi,the couples neighbour.
The door was bolted from the inside and the villagers had to break the mud wall. Inside,they found the couple enveloped in flames. Bachai,who was unconscious,died on the wway. Dukhna,although conscious,is in a critical condition.
A day before,the couple had borrowed some kerosene from a neighbour and apparently used it to set themselves afire.
The one-room house had no cooking utensils,no oil,not even salt. There was about four kg paddy,apparently earned as farm wages and a small quantity of rice in a gunny bag.
They rarely had money to buy rations from the fair price shop, accepted the shop-owner Ram Niwas. They had not bought rations for the last two months,he said.
Villagers said the Bachai often borrowed food from members of his community.
Dukhna used to share her ordeal with me. On several occasions,there was nothing to eat in her house, said Gudia,a friend who rushed to the SRN hospital to look after her.
Dukhna was Bachais second wife,whom he married seven years ago after the death of his first wife. He had five children from his first wife and they all lived in the village under the care of their grandmother. After the incident,they all left the village and went to stay with a relative.
The members of Bachais community were vocal against the village pradhan,the fair price shop owner and the administration.
We had paid Rs 20 each for the photographs for NREGA job card,but we never got these, said Mithailal. Ram Karan and Jhagadu,too,had not got the cards and blamed the administration and village pradhan Genda Lal.
The villagers alleged that the local fair price shop was allotted to Ram Niwas,a member of the scheduled caste,but was being run by an upper caste person,Deepak.
The pradhan denied the allegations and said the villagers did not want to work under NREGA. But he had little to add when asked why the job cards were not made and why Deepak was running the fair price shop.
District Magistrate Rajeev Agrawal said he had deputed Sub-Divisional Magistrate Triloki Singh to get first-hand information about the incident. He accepted that there are reports of irregularities in NREGA job cards and the running of the fair price shop.
Right now,I cannot say that the couple tried to end their life due to poverty,but I have ordered an inquiry. The license of the fair price shop would be cancelled if it turns out that somebody else is running it, said the DM.