One week ago on July 20, 53-year-old Damodaran, a native of Kunnamkulam in Thrissur was shocked to find the body of his 27-year-old son, Sarath, a tipper lorry driver, hanging. He was jobless due to the lockdown from May 8. Immediately, Damodaran, a coolie labourer, also followed his son. The father-son duo is among 15 persons, including a minor, who took life due to monetary difficulties in the last seven weeks in Kerala.
On June June 21, a family of three, Manoj Kumar, 45, wife Renju, 38, and their 16-year-old daughter found dead at Nanthancode, barely a kilometre away from the Kerala State Assembly building. The family head, a goldsmith by profession, decided to end life by consuming poison due to the financial burden due to job loss.
Among those who took their life due to financial difficulties during this period ranges from bus owners to light and sounds business owners.
The list of people who took their lives during the financial stress is long.
Forty-eight-year-old PC Rajamani, a native of Ambalavayal in Wayanad district, ran the Brahmaputra bus service along the Kadalmadu-Sultan Bathery route. His relatives and residents said Rajamani was in deep financial stress when the bus service had to be stopped due to the Covid-19. He died on July 20, by consuming poison, according to his relatives.
Santhosh, 47, farmer and newspaper vendor from Idukki on July 1 took life.
Nirmal Chandran, 54, light and sounds business owner from Thiruvananthapuram, died on July 2. He had also started a chicken stall as the business turned dull.
Vishnu Prasad, 35, a computer instructor and computer training centre owner from Alappuzha, decided to end his life on July 7.
Ponnumani, 59, Palakkad, light and sounds business owner July 17 died by suicide.
Vinod, 52, Idukki, a bakery owner on ended his life on July 19. According to his friends and relatives, he was under pressure from lenders.
S Vijayakumar, 56, a stationery shop owner from Thiruvananthapuram also ended his life on July 22.
Kannan Kutti, 56, a small-scale farmer and tractor driver from Palakkad, died on July 26 and Mohanan Pillai, 52, a travel fleet owner from Kollam on July 26.
The last one was the death of Sreekanth alias Abhilash, 36, from Thiruvananthapuram. He was a dairy farmer who also worked in other houses to milk cows. He lost his job as neighbours sold cows. He was found hanging at a partially completed home at Malayinkeezh.
“This is a particular situation, created by the system in an unprecedented condition. They have everything, including willingness to work. However, the system denies the opportunity and they are in no mood to approach anyone for financial support. Instead, they end the life either alone or with family," said Dijo Kappen, a consumer activist and a social observer based in central Kerala.
Many of them were clueless about the logic in opening and closing shops during the lockdown. The beverage shops under the State government were opened on June 17 for five days a week. “However, the other shops had to be at the mercy of the government policy. So, they are bewildered as the other shops had to be closed. Also, the timing of the shops and working days have dwindled. In effect, they are getting only eight days in a month," added Kappen.
It has prompted many like Arshad, a merchant from Nedumangad, Thiruvananthapuram, to speak against the ‘illogical’ lockdown that kills the trader’s community. A video where he was describing the plight of his community and the unscientific practice of the authorities was viral on social media. “You see crowded KSRTC buses, long queues in front of beverage shops. The online market is thriving as the other shops are closed. Even the officials are helpless in this lockdown guidelines mainly prepared based on the TPR. How can you justify the rationale in making one side of the road as a D zone, preventing the opening of shops while business as usual on the other side?" he asked.
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