The Gujarat Model continues to be BJP’s go-to solution for all problems, but the underlying painful truth seems far removed. Data from the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) now reveals that the last five years (2017-2022) witnessed a 50.44% surge in death by suicides among daily wagers. In analytical numbers, this would translate to nearly nine lives lost thus each day. Poverty and an inability to meet daily expenses of the family have emerged the primal motives.
The report was tabled in Rajya Sabha in response to a question by the MoS, Home Affairs, Nityanand Rai.
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While the numbers are worrying indeed, what nails most efforts at detailed study is the fact that daily wagers in a rapidly industrializing and urbanizing state like Gujarat are largely unorganised and not registered on paper. This is particularly true of most private enterprises.
During data collection, officials were allowed to access police files to ascertain the main reason for suicide. “Economic stress confounded by ever-increasing inflation is the culprit,” added an insider, part of the fact collection team.
Data for 2021-22 shows that Gujarat ranks second where it comes to daily wages. The daily minimum wage for unskilled workers has been set at Rs 348.20 in urban areas and Rs 340.20 in rural areas, according to a notification (dated April 9, 2021) issued by the Labour Department of the Gujarat government.
Madhya Pradesh ranks lowest at Rs 217.8. In the last one year, it has increased by about 20 paise, while from 2014-15 it inched up by a mere Rs 67.
The daily wage in the agriculture sector in Gujarat is Rs 220.30, an increase of just Rs 60 from Rs 60 in 2014-15. Among the states that ranked lowest as paymasters in the construction sector, Madhya Pradesh is lowest at Rs 230, followed by Tripura at Rs 250, Gujarat at Rs 252.50 and Maharashtra Rs 277.20.
Porbandar MLA and former Gujarat Congress chief Arjun Modhwadia shared how daily wage earners in Gujarat get much lower wages as compared to states like Kerala. “Agricultural labourers in Kerala received a daily wage of Rs 726.80 during 2021-22. More than three times that of Gujarat. Why are wages now fixed in such sectors?” he asked, leaving the ruling BJP with a point to ponder.
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