TIRUNELVELI: In a shocking turn of events, a man at first set his wife and two girl children on fire before setting himself ablaze inside the district collectorate during a weekly grievances redressal meet on Monday.
With police and administration allegedly turning a deaf ear to their pleas, the family, who reportedly was suffering at the hands of a local money lender took the drastic steps after five of their petitions submitted to the collector did not yield any positive result. The kin of the victims said a person from the deceased man’s hometown practised usury and abused the family, even after fully recovering the debt. The victims were immediately rushed to the Tirunelveli Medical College Hospital, where three of them died.
The couple — Isakkimuthu (30) and Subbulakshmi (28) — originally hailed from Kasitharmam near Kadayanalloor. However, the family migrated to Coimbatore around eight months ago since Isakkimuthu was working in a cotton mill. The relatives of the victims said the family had obtained an amount of Rs 1,45,000 from Muthulakshmi, a local usurer from Kasitharmam, around six months ago. The couple had reportedly repaid an amount of Rs 2,34,000 in six monthly instalments of Rs 39,000. However they were allegedly abused and forced to pay additional money by Muthulakshmi.
Unable to bear the pressure of Muthulakshmi, Isakkimuthu sought the intervention of Achanputhur Police. However, the police were unresponsive towards the complainant and allegedly colluded with Muthulakshmi, source said.
Speaking to Express, Gopi, brother of Isakkimuthu, said, “Achanputhur sub-inspector Murugan and constable Thangadurai have blatantly supported Muthulakshmi. Not only the police threatened us, they also demanded my brother to sign on a plain agreement. We even have the audio record of the conversation wherein the police threatened my brother over phone.”
Losing faith on the police department, the family reportedly approached the Collectorate and so far had submitted five separate petitions during several weekly grievance redressal meetings. But their problem was never attended to. Though Express tried to contact Collector Sandeep Nanduri and superintendent of police (SP) about the action taken on the five previous petitions submitted by Isakkimuthu, they were unavailable for comment.
On Monday, the couple once again went to the Collectorate with their two children — Mathi Charunya (4) and Atchaya Baranika (2) — to submit another petition. They were accompanied by Isakkimuthu’s brother Gopi. According to Gopi, Isakkimuthu took the drastic step around 10.30 am when he went to a nearby shop to have tea. Isakkimuthu drenched the family members with kerosene and set them ablaze, sources said. They were rescued by the policemen and public and rushed to the Tirunelveli Medical College Hospital.
The Collector later came to the hospital and inquired about the condition of the victims. When asked about the status of the multiple petitions submitted by the victims at the collectorate, Sandeep said, “We have forwarded their last petition to the police department seeking proper action. We are expecting a report on this from the office of Superintendent of Police. A proper inquiry by Revenue Divisional Officer (RDO) and Tahsildar will commence.”
Sandeep also said that a dedicated helpline number for lodging usury-related complaints would be set up. He said a joint team that would include police and revenue officials would be formed soon to tackle usurers.
Will move NHRC on the issue
Criticising the officials for failing to protect the victims, VCK president Thol Thirumavalavan said that the issue would be taken to the National Human Rights Commission