Representational Image. Image Courtesy: sabrang India
Lucknow: Government apathy, joblessness and a sense of abandonment among returned migrants in Uttar Pradesh is pushing many of them to the brink, with some of them allegedly even taking their own lives.
In two separate incidents, three migrant labourers in UP allegedly committed suicide on May 29.
Following the sudden lockdown since March 25, and after facing apathy from the government who is supposed to protect them, migrants workers who have started returning to their hometowns are going through depression and anxiety apart from facing an acute economic crunch.
In the first incident, a 50-year-old man allegedly committed suicide on Friday by jumping in front of a train near Maigalganj railway station in Lakhimpur Kheri district, leaving behind a suicide note that blamed the government’s decision to extend the lockdown to contain the coronavirus pandemic for rendering him unemployed.
The victim, identified as Bhanu Prakash Gupta, used to work in a hotel in Shahjahanpur district. He leaves behind his wife, four children, and his unwell mother. He was unemployed since the lockdown and had reportedly run out of cash in the past few days.
In the suicide note recovered from the spot, Gupta said while there was wheat and rice in his house, thanks to the government ration shop, it was not enough to feed his family. He said he was left penniless and was unable to buy other essential commodities, such as sugar, salt and milk.
The suicide note also mentioned that his aged mother was sick and he felt helpless as he was unable to get her treated because the district administration did not help him despite repeated requests.
Kheri District Magistrate (DM) Shailendra Kumar Singh told reporters: "The deceased man and his elderly mother were both beneficiaries of Antyodaya scheme and were regularly receiving foodgrains. There was no shortage of grain. We have found his suicide note from the spot and we are investigating the reason behind this step."
In the second incident, the deceased were identified as Suresh (22) and Manoj (20), residents of Banda district in Bundelkhand region.
Allegedly fed up of severe financial crunch, both migrant workers, who had recently returned home from Delhi and Mumbai, allegedly committed suicide on May 27.
Suresh hanged himself from a tree in Lohra village of Mataundh police station area while Manoj who had returned from Mumbai about a fortnight ago, committed suicide by hanging himself from the ceiling of his room in Sindhan Kala village under Pailani police station.
"Suresh was facing a financial crunch and due to this, he was under acute depression ever since he lost his job. He was daily wager in Delhi and returned only last week," inspector Ramendra Tiwari was quoted as saying in a Hindi newspaper.
Manoj, who was a security guard in a private company in Mumbai that shut down due to the lockdown, was forced to return home with no job in hand. "Manoj was an orphan and was working as a security guard for several years. After he came back to Banda, he was under depression," Gautam, his neighbour, told NewsClick.
Suicides Rise During Covid-19
The situation created by sudden lockdown in the wake of COVID-19 pandemic has not only caused financial stress but is also leading to mental health issues.
A study conducted recently by a team of Indian Psychiatry Society (IPS) said there has been an almost 20% rise in mental illness during the crisis. People are living in fear of losing their jobs
CS Verma, president Jan Swasthya Abhiyan (JSA), Uttar Pradesh, said the key is reason is that migrants are losing jobs and there is no hope for getting new ones. “These people migrate to another city driven by a flame of hope but when they lose the thing for which they migrated, mental illness grips them. Governments did try to help them, implementing schemes for them, but these were not delivered on ground," he said.
The sudden lockdown with just four hours of notice has compounded problems. "Migrant workers were not mentally prepared for the lockdown. After that, they faced uncertainty on the road as there was no help to take them home" Verma said, adding that there could be more such cases in future as about 25 lakh migrants, workers and their families have returned to Uttar Pradesh after being stranded for weeks in other states.