A 54-year-old anganwadi helper committed suicide Tuesday in Parbhani alleging non-payment for the past five months and pressure from officials at work to provide anganwadi reports for the last 10 years. According to her family members, Sumitra Sawandkar committed suicide Tuesday morning at their residence in Bordi village in Jintur tehsil in Parbhani district. Sawandkar had been working as anganwadi sevika (helper) in Nagangaon village, few kilometres from Bordi, since 1993. Her two sons were away at work when she took the extreme step.
Officials from Zilla Parishad admitted that Sawandkar didn’t receive her payment for last five months. “The payment was delayed as her Aadhaar card was not linked. The Aadhaar provided by her was invalid and it was corrected in the last week of October. The payment should have happened after that. We are checking why there was delay after the updation of aadhaar,” said an official from the Zilla Parishad.
“For the past few weeks, she was under a lot of stress due to non-payment. Also, there was lot of pressure on her for providing the records since 2008. As there was no building, the anganwadi used to function from a temple,” said Prabhakar, Sawandkar’s younger son, adding she has left behind a suicide note blaming non-payment and work pressure as reason for step.
According to Prabhakar, the suicide note mentions there was no place to keep the anganwadi records. Since these records were not available, she was forced to take the extreme step, said Prabhakar. The suicide note, Prabhakar said, also claims that the government does not provide money for records, xerox or for any other stationery material and the workers have to buy from their own pockets.
Prabhakar added that she did not have money for travelling daily to Nagangaon for work. “Despite several complaints, protests for payments on time, the government did not pay heed to the issue. It has taken the life of my mother,” he said. “She was also under pressure as some of the records need to be maintained in English and she didn’t understand the language. We just hope that government acts swiftly in the matter to ensure that other anganwadi workers don’t take such extreme steps,” said Prabhakar.
Madhavi Kshirsagar, secretary of Maharashtra State Anganwadi Balwadi Workers Union, alleged that there was lot of work pressure from the officials for the records. “Action should be taken against all those who are responsible for the incident,” said Kshirsagar. Police officials have registered an accidental death report and are investigating the case further.