On July 31, it was reported that as many as 17 people have committed suicide in the state of Kerala due to financial crisis caused by the Covid-19 lockdown in the last six weeks. A total of 50 suicides were reported from June 20 to July 31, out of which 17 were due to financial troubles. In two of these 17 cases, more than one person has died.
The first case reported in this period was of a 45-years-old goldsmith identified as Manoj Kumar, his wife Ranju and their 16-year-old daughter from Nanthancode. They died after consuming poison on June 20. Reportedly, Kumar had no work for several weeks and could not pay back his loans.
In another case, 36-years-old Sreekanth from Vilappilsala hanged himself in his under-construction house. He owned a small-time dairy farm. Due to lockdown, his earnings hit hard. He used to milk cows of the neighbours too, but during the lockdown, many of his neighbours sold their cows that further reduced his income. He is survived by his wife and two sons.
The third case reported was on PC Rajamani from Rahul Gandhi’s Wayanad. He owned a bus that was standing still since lockdown was imposed. Another case from the transport industry was of Mohanan Pillai from Kollam, who owned Seena Travels. His company was hit hard due to lockdown.
The third case from the same industry was of V Mohanan from Kottayam, who owned a tourist van. He used to rent it out to tourists. Another case of suicide from the tourism industry was of bus driver Abhjith from Kozhikode. He killed himself in the bus that got stranded in Assam for over two months due to lockdown.
53-years-old Nirmal Chandran from Thiruvananthapuram and Ponnu Mani from Palakkad had a light-and-sound business. During a pandemic, their businesses were no longer in demand resulting in a financial crunch. Chandran committed suicide on July 2, and Mani killed himself on July 17, according to TwentyFour News.
55-years-old Vinod owned a bakery in Idukki. He killed himself on July 19. 56-years-old Vijayakumar also owned a bakery in Malayankeel, Thiruvananthapuram. He died of suicide on July 22.
56-years-old Kannan Kutty, a tractor driver, committed suicide due to a financial crisis as there was no work.
35-years-old Vishnu Prasad had a computer training centre at Mannar, Alappuzha. He committed suicide on July 7. In another case, 53-years-old Damodaran and his 27-years-old Sarath from Thrissur committed suicide on July 20.
Dijo Kappen, a Consumer activist and a social observer based in central Kerala, said, “They are all people with self-respect. This is a particular situation created by the system in an unprecedented condition. They have everything, including willingness to work. However, the system denies them the opportunity, and they are in no mood to approach anyone for financial support. Instead, they end the life either alone or with family, alleged in some cases.”
The government announced to wave off rent and dropped fixed power charges
On July 30, the government of Kerala announced measures to deal with the lockdown imposed financial situation that led to a ray of hope for traders and small-scale business owners. Kerala Vyapari Vyavasayi Ekopana Samithi general secretary S S Manoj welcomed the government’s decision to waive off the power bill. However, he was concerned over interest waivers only for new loans. He said, “I don’t know how many of us are in a position to take the risk of borrowing afresh.”
Economist and former state finance commission chairman B A Prakash criticized the government for not taking steps for the labourers and entrepreneurs in distress. He said, “Unlike previous economic crises, this is a prolonged one. There is no scope for immediate revival for certain sectors. School bus drivers and cinema theatre employees have no clue when they can resume work.” He further added, “The government should have addressed the woes of labourers and entrepreneurs in distress and given them relief like direct cash transfer. Instead, they hiked the salary of government employees. Maybe, they are the only section of workers which received a raise during the pandemic.”
The Planning board has estimated that to provide financial assistance to those who have lost their jobs during Covid, the government would need Rs.7,300 crores. It would allow the government to provide cash transfers of Rs.10,000 to 73 lakh out of the 1.27 crore workforce of the state.