A migrant labourer from Uttar Pradesh allegedly hanged himself to death at his rented accommodation in Rajiv Gandhi Colony of Ludhiana, a hub of workers from economically weaker section (EWS), Saturday late. While his family claimed that the 38-year-old took the step as he was depressed over not getting ration for last 10 days, the police termed it an outcome of a domestic dispute between him and his wife.
The body of Ajit Kumar Rai, who hailed from Azamgarh and was living in Ludhiana since 15 years, was found hanging with ceiling grills at his room Saturday late.
His wife Savita told the The Indian Express they had no ration at home. “Ration ki maaramari chal rahi thi. Police aur na jaane kis kis ko phone kiye, par kuch nahi hua. Aath-dus din se ration nahi tha aur hum daud rahe they. Padosi se lete they thoda thoda. Jab se mahamari shuru hui koi kaam nahi tha (We were struggling to get ration. My husband called police and on other helpline numbers but we got nothing. There was no ration since 8-10 days and we were struggling. We were borrowing from others. Since pandemic started, my husband had no work)”.
Savita said that her husband worked as labourer and would earn Rs 400-500 a day but there had been no work since the lockdown began. The couple has two children- Pranshu (14) and Himanshu (12). “Koi jhadga nahi hua (There was no fight). Around 7 pm, I made tea for my husband. He said he was going out to arrange for ration but returned empty-handed. I told him we will manage by borrowing. I went to kitchen to cook whatever we had and after some time when I went to his room, he was hanging from the ceiling with a piece a cloth. Hum UP waapis jaane ka soch rahe they (We were planning to go back to UP).”
His sons too claimed that their father had been visiting Focal Point police station on daily basis after registering with 1905 helpline number but wasn’t getting ration. “Koi jhagda nahi hua (There was no fight at home). Father had called 1905 and 112 helplines for ration. There was only some atta and rice at home, which we had borrowed from neighbours. Father used to tell us everyday that we will get ration. Yesterday also he went to police station but returned empty-handed.”
Sub-inspector Aseem Hans, who was first to meet the family after suicide, said that the victim’s wife in her statement said that Ajit killed himself because they had no ration. “However, it wasn’t as if there was absolutely nothing to eat. They had some stuff but according to family, the man was in tension as there was no work and no ration supply,” he said.
Meanwhile, after Ajit’s suicide, hundreds of laborers and migrants living in Focal Point area, gathered outside Focal Point police station Sunday and protested claiming that no ration was being given to them despite registering on 1905. They claimed that even after they get a call from police station to collect ration, they are returned empty-handed and asked to come next day. They also accused local Congress councillor Sandeep Kumari of ‘favouritism’ in ration distribution.
Refuting allegations, Kumar’s husband Gaurav Bhatti, said, “There is not an iota of truth in it. The migrants are called turn wise but some people arrive at police station without getting a call. In this particular case, maybe he did not get ration because it wasn’t his turn but that wasn’t the sole reason (behind suicide). The couple had a fight.”
He, however, admitted that of 15,000 labourer families living in Rajiv Gandhi colony, some 1,600 have been provided ration. “Around 500 were given government packets and we provided ration to 1,100 families at our own level,” he said. “Others are depending on 1905 helpline,” he said.
Jasmeet Singh, member of local Karkhaana Mazdoor Union said that on daily basis, hundreds of laborers and migrant workers who live in Rajiv Gandhi Colony and other colonies near Focal Point police station, are turned away and ration wasn’t being distributed fairly and transparently. “They are called to collect the ration, stand in queues for hours but are returned empty-handed,” he claimed.
Meanwhile, police said that they are probing the case. Additional DCP-4 Ajinder Singh said that though the man had registered on 1905 helpline and also received a message, he committed suicide due to other reasons. “His family is showing us one message, which they received yesterday after registering on 1905. We are yet to confirm if he visited police station yesterday or not. But the couple had a fight too. We are probing.”
Inspector Mohammad Jameel, SHO Focal Point, said that wife in her statement “has blamed financial issues and lack of work due to which her husband committed suicide, we are probing”
Refuting allegations that local migrants aren’t being given ration in a transparent way, the SHO said, “If 4,000 are registering in a day on 1905 and getting OTPs, but we have ration for 1,000 only, then how can we give it to everyone in one day? We have limited supplies. It is not our fault.”
Ludhiana East SDM Amarjit Bains, however, said that “it is highly unlikely” that the man committed suicide due to ration. “We are distributing ration 24×7 but police will probe,” said SDM.
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