Little evidence of relief

Print edition : April 14, 2001

"THE number of suicide cases came down because we did not announce an ex-gratia payment to the families of those who died of monocrotophoshate poisoning," said Anantapur District Collector Somesh Kumar. "We have assisted the families of victims in other ways." The convoluted and unsympathetic logic underlying the official analysis of a serious social crisis apart, Frontline found very little evidence of assistance in kind to the families of those who died.

In the case of one family, that of Ramjaneyulu's at Jakkalcheruvu village, his wife Mangamma and children were given financial assistance in instalments to construct a small house. The residents of the village staged a demonstration demanding immediate assistance for the family. In an Action Taken Report prepared by the administration and submitted to the State government, the steps taken to provide relief to the families of 41 persons who committed suicide are listed. All the relief measures are in the "to be done" category. Children are "to be" given admission into Social Welfare Residential Schools, a house is "to be" given to the next of kin, old age pensions are "to be" provided to the aged members of the family; bank loans are "to be" rescheduled, and so on.

Survivors, carrying the burden of loans, wait for relief "to be" disbursed. In Marthadu village, the aged parents of Devarla Rajanna, the bread-winner who committed suicide, have received no help from the administration, not even the Rs.10,000 that was supposed to have been immediately disbursed from the National Family Benefit Scheme. "Some government officials said they would give us old age pension and assistance to build a house, but nothing has come by so far," said Devarla Balanna. Neither has help in cash or kind been extended to Rami Reddy, the husband of Padmamma of Penakacherla village. He is a sick man who cannot work. "Please try to get some help for the family. They have nothing," was the last request that Nagamma, a family friend, made to the Frontline team before it left the village.

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