- 3 construction workers allegedly committed suicide this month
- Wife of a victim said her husband was unemployed for 4 months
- Slump in construction sector linked to government's new sand policy
At least three persons, all of whom were believed to be dependent on the construction sector for their livelihood, have killed themselves in separate incidents in the Tenali, Guntur and Mangalagiri regions of Andhra Pradesh this month. Their deaths have been linked by many to the slump in activity in the sector caused by a change in the state's policy on sand - which is required in large quantities to help strengthen buildings and used to make both cement and concrete.
One of the victims, Venkatesh, who lived in Guntur district, recorded a selfie before hanging himself. In the video, recorded over three weeks ago but which only became public now, he said he was killing himself because he was unemployed and had no other means of earning a living. According to his wife, Raashi, Venkatesh had been unemployed for the past four months.
"Our livelihood means was only construction business. My husband did not know any other work. We also have a one-year-old son who is not feeling well and needs medical care," she said.
A video, believed to be the one recorded by Venkatesh, has been tweeted by former Andhra Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu, whose Telugu Desam party (TDP), which was in power earlier, has been accused by the ruling YSR Congress of being in cahoots with an alleged sand mafia.
In his Twitter message the former Chief Minister said it was "mind-boggling to see workers committing suicide".
"It is mind-boggling to see workers committing suicide for five months without work or families starving. The government should wake up to self-styled videos of selfies as a refuge," Mr Naidu wrote in Telugu.
అయిదు నెలలుగా పనులు లేక, కుటుంబాలు పస్తులు ఉండడం చూడలేక మనోవేదనతో కార్మికులు ఆత్మహత్యలు చేసుకోవడం మనసును కలచివేస్తోంది. సెల్ఫీ వీడియోలతో ఆత్మహత్యలే తమకిక శరణ్యంగా పేర్కొనడం చూసైనా ఈ ప్రభుత్వం మేల్కొనాలి.పనులు కోల్పోయిన కార్మికులకు పరిహారం చెల్లించాలి. pic.twitter.com/NhQAYHFQF1— N Chandrababu Naidu (@ncbn) October 28, 2019
Venkatesh's neighbours say the area they live in - Gorantla - is full of men and women who work in construction-related fields, like tile work, plumbing and construction.
"No one is having work and conditions are really bad. We appeal to the government to see that this changes," a neighbour said.
The other deaths were of Naga Brahmaji from Tenali, who killed himself earlier this month, and from Mangalagiri.
Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Jagan Mohan Reddy's YSR Congress government has tried to overhaul the sand policy in the state.
Last month the Chief Minister announced new rules under which the previous administration's "free sand policy" was scrapped and the material was made available only from government-owned stockyards.
The fallout of the policy has been that sand procurement has declined, affecting both the construction and real estate sectors.
The Jana Sena Party, which was founded by actor-turned-politician Pawan Kalyan and has a single seat in the state Assembly, has sought the centre's intervention to help more than 30 lakh people who are employed, either directly or indirectly, by the construction section.
"I appeal to the centre to come to the rescue of construction workers. The AP government's chaotic sand policy has put lakhs of workers out of job and put their families in a state of misery," the party chief said
The TDP has demanded the government pay each worker Rs 10,000 as compensation. The ruling party has blamed sand scarcity in the Krishna Basin, due to recent floods, for the situation.
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