Gayathri Asundi, who secured 82 per cent in the annual second PU exams this year, committed suicide when she realised that her father, Madivalappa Rudrappa Asundi from Betsur village of Saundatti taluk, was unable to mobilise the money to fund her higher education.

She had secured a government seat for admission to a three-year BBA course and the fee demanded by a college was around Rs. 19,000 a year, including tuition fee, deposit and cost of the uniform.

Mr. Asundi is now inconsolable, but there is little he could have done to mobilise the money considering that he is a Grama Vidyuth Prathinidhi (GVP) with Hescom and earns less than Rs. 5,000 a month.

He is among the 3,699 GVPs – appointed by every gram panchayat since 2003-04 – in north Karnataka region with the objective of taking certain power-related schemes to the doorsteps of its rural consumers and also collect power bills to improve revenue collection. They are paid a monthly “incentive” that is linked to the “targets” they achieve in revenue collection. A GVP is paid Rs. 5,000 if the target is achieved and less if it is not.

The Karnataka Rajya GVPs Federation office-bearers say that a majority of GVPs are unable to achieve 100 per cent target because of waiver of energy bills for connections under Bhagya Jyoti scheme. Therefore, the actual incentives given to them often ends up being less than Rs. 3000 a month, which was not sufficient to sustain given escalating the costs. Even this meagre incentive is not paid regularly, but once two or three months. “Our only request to the government is to fix a minimum wage for our hard and laborious work and ensure us due social security,” said Mr. Mayakond.

The GVPs have been demanding better pay and better treatment by Hescom authorities, said S.R. Sharanappa Mayakond, president of the Karnataka Rajya GVPs Federation and district president G.N. Kareppagol. During Chief Minister Siddaramaiah’s recent visit to Belgaum, all the GVPs from Saundatti met him and shared their woes.

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