For the last eight days, the family members of Manisha Laxman Gadkar (40) at Ambi village in Bhoom taluka have not stepped into their house. They are with relatives next door. It’s been eight days since Manisha set herself on fire inside the house.
Her suicide has cast another shadow on the agrarian crisis and brought out the need for employment guarantee scheme to offer a source of income for families. On August 29, the Gadkars were expecting their eldest married daughter, Bhagyashree, to celebrate Raksha Bandhan. After baking “bhakris”, she asked her husband to get money as she wanted to make some sweets for the children.
Her husband Laxman Gadkar has been looking for work as their half acre land was of no use because of the drought. “I set out in search of work in neighbouring Jamburi village. My wife packed ‘bhakris’ for me. After half an hour, I received information that she had set herself on fire,” said Laxman, who also worked as a labourer. They rushed Manisha to a hospital in Solapur.
She passed away on September 3.
Relatives said that Laxman, before setting out of the house, had told his wife to make do with whatever was there at home. At this, Manisha had told him, “All the 12 months you give the same response. How long can we live this way?”
She had doused herself with kerosene and set herself on fire.
Their daughter Dhanashree (14), a class 9 student, said, “I was cleaning utensils outside. I heard a noise. The door was locked from inside.”
Sarpanch Uttamkerba Gaikwad said the agrarian crisis has rendered people jobless.
A neighbour, Dhananjay said, “It has been our tradition to roll puran polis during Rakhi Poornima. When you cannot meet basic demands of your children, it brings depression.” Pointing to her daughter Radha, he said she has been asking for slippers as she walks barefoot to her school.
According to gram sabha members, Gadkar owed Rs 40,000 to a sugar mill where he worked as a labourer for several years in Osmanabad. The sugar mill is in crisis and seeking repayment. The loan was taken for wedding of their elder daughter.
The sarpanch said, “Wedding expenditure can be between Rs 50,000 and Rs 2.5 lakh.” Ganesh Gode, a village youth, said, “Urban lifestyle is catching up. Whether it is festivals or weddings, expenditure is rising.”
He said, “Earlier, Raksha Bandhan was not a big celebration. Now, when one section in the village celebrates, it becomes a social obligation for other families.” After speaking to 20 to 25 villagers including gram sabha members and District Collector Prashant Narnavwe, it became evident that employment guarantee scheme was essential to ensure income for families hit by agrarian crisis. The records in village ration shops show the family had taken rice at Rs 3 per kg and wheat at Rs 2 per kg, offered under the Food Security Act, on August 8. They were due for the next quota on September 3, which was delivered after the incident. The deputy collector and district officials visited the family members.
Tehsildar D A Mohite, who supervised the food distribution system, said, “We provided adequate foodgrains to every ration shop. There is no question of starvation. Every family is given their quota.” Gram sabhas have been told to monitor and complain if anybody is denied their quota of food grains.