THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: As many as 215 families residing in Chowallor ward in Vilappil panchayat are yet to recover from the shocking news of the death of Raji Sivan, a 47-year-old entrepreneur who committed suicide on Monday morning in the godown of the hollow bricks company that she had co-founded with her husband. Raji reportedly committed suicide owing to the debt and her plan to repay the Kerala Financial Corporation’s loan of `30 lakh as one-time settlement fell through after the government remained non-committal about acquiring her 23 cents of land for the APJ Abdul Kalam Technological University (KTU).
The extreme disappointment and grief that the families felt were due to their personal bonding with the deceased as well as their own similar plight. The government had announced that 100 acres of land in Chowallor ward would be acquired for the KTU in 2017. The documents from 216 families were collected in 2020, but none of them have received any payments and are now uncertain whether the government would drop the land acquisition plan. To make matters worse, they are also unsure how to get back their documents from the government.
Raji was planning to repay her loan with the money that she was expecting from the government in return for her 23 cents of land. Her husband Sivan said that when the KFC offered them a one-time debt settlement scheme they were elated as they thought they could repay it with the money from the government. “When we gave the documents of our properties during a meeting attended by revenue and KTU officials, we were promised our payment within 20 days. Now I realise that we were cheated,” Sivan said.
The couple had pledged 73 cents of land with the KFC to obtain a loan to the tune of Rs 58 lakh. Since the government plan was to take over 23 cents of land, the couple thought of using that money to repay their loan.Vilappil panchayat Chowallor ward member B Chandra Babu said the rest of the families that gave their land documents would have Raji’s fate if the government does not intervene.
He said several marriages have been cancelled as the families were pinning their hopes on government compensation for the land. “After the authorities took over the documents, the land owners stopped farming. People sold off their trees thinking that the government would soon take over the land. And parents were waiting for the government to acquire the land and pay the amount to marry off their children. They are in utter confusion now. They don’t have the land with them now as the documents are with the government and the government is not keen enough to tell them whether it requires the land or not,” the ward member, who belongs to the CPI, said.
Sivan, meanwhile, said there were reports that the government has decided to acquire 50 acres of land instead of the initially proposed 100 acres and that has set alarm bells ringing among the public. “We were the ones who had to face the brunt when the waste treatment plant was operating in this locality. And now, we are left once again at the mercy of the government. There are reports that government will take only 50 acres of land and that too from influential people. About 16 people together possess 50 acres of land and the administration seems to be eager to purchase that from them while leaving us behind in distress,” he said.
The ward member, meanwhile, warned that more people might be forced to follow suit if the government fails to act swiftly. “We might see a repeat of the episode of Raji. The situation is really alarming,” he added. Hundreds paid tribute to Raji when her body was brought to her house. Cremation was held later.
Debt takes life
Raji reportedly ended life owing to the debt and her plan to repay the Kerala Financial Corporation’s loan of Rs 30 lakh as one-time settlement fell through after the government remained non-committal about acquiring her 23 cents of land for the APJ Abdul Kalam Technological University.
(If you are having suicidal thoughts, or are worried about a friend or need emotional support, someone is always there to listen. Call Sneha Foundation - 04424640050 (available 24x7) or iCall, the Tata Institute of Social Sciences' helpline - 9152987821, which is available Monday to Saturday from 8 am to 10 pm).