“Depressed” over his worsening financial condition, a 50-year-old farmer allegedly hanged himself at his home in Dhadhauli village, in Jharkhand’s Gumla district, on Monday night, it emerged on Wednesday.
Family members said Shiva Khariya had sown paddy but it failed due to lack of rain, which deteriorated his “mental condition”.
Deputy Commissioner Gumla Shashi Ranjan, however, said stress may not be the only reason behind the suicide. “He was also an alcoholic, and over the last few days had fever. He did not eat anything.”
Khariya’s family was a beneficiary of the LPG connection under the Central government’s Ujjwala scheme, Ranjan added.
This came days after a farmer from Ranchi district allegedly killed himself, with his family claiming that the government authorities did not clear dues for building materials for a well dug on his land under the Mahatma National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA).
Khariya’s wife Mangri Devi said he had mortgaged land for their son and daughter’s weddings. She said: “Farming is limited to the three-four months during the monsoon; there is no water the rest of the year. Over the years, we survived on free ration and some rice and urad dal produced on our farm. Our sons go out for work, but the money they send home is not sufficient.”
Land records show Khariya owned 13 acres of land; the family said half of that had been “mortgaged”.
Khariya’s son Birsa, 25, said his father did not eat the rice and starch cooked at home on Monday night and went to sleep. “We found his body, hanging, the next day,” he said.
The family has an MNREGA job card but has not taken any job for the last five years, with family members claiming that the low wages and a bigger payment cycles dissuade them.
Village head Sushila Soren said most people in all three villages under Kasira panchayat are farmers but people temporarily leave for other areas in search of jobs after the monsoon. “Under MGNREGA, payment cycles have been absurdly delayed by more than 45-60 days. Even when money comes, there there is misdirection of wages and people do not get it. This has led to a belief that there will be no payment under MGNREGA,” Soren said.
Panchayat secretary Ravindra Kashyap said farmers who had availed schemes such as well construction in 2017-18 have not received material payments yet.
But maintaining that MGNREGA payment error in Gumla is “less than 1 per cent”, the DC, Ranjan, said, “There are some problems regarding material payments, but the dues are cleared periodically.”