Thiruvananthapuram: Rising pension dues came back to haunt the ruling Left Democratic Front in Kerala again on Thursday as another pensioner of the Kerala State Road Transport Corporation committed suicide, after falling into financial crisis owing to drying up of his pension receipts for months together.
The incident happened at a lodge in Sultan Bathery, and the deceased was identified as Natesh Babu, a native of Thalassery who had worked with the KSRTC as a superintendent at the Bathery bus depot.
He had been missing for two days, and when he did not turn up for a protest march scheduled for Thursday, his friends launched a search for him, following which his body was found in the lodge room.
His former colleagues told local media that he was in such financial difficulty that he did not even have money to buy food. The family had been dependent on his monthly pension.
The KSRTC has an estimated 39,000 pensioners and a large number of them have not been receiving pensions for over three months as the state government is facing a financial crunch.
Recent revelations that Kerala’s health minister and assembly speaker had purchased spectacles for Rs28,000 (Dh1,599) and Rs50,000 (Dh2,856), respectively, and the finance minister had received ayurvedic treatment for Rs120,000, all at government expense, had earned the wrath of KSRTC pensioners.
On Thursday, the pensioners took out another protest march demanding a quick resolution to the pension crisis. The protesters marched with their mouths gagged with black cloth and carrying placards saying, “Pension … or poison”, and “Give us pension, or give us a mercy killing”.
State finance minister T.M. Thomas Isaac had announced that the KSRTC pension crisis would be resolved by March, but the majority of pensioners refuse to believe the promise.
“Many are taking their lives. This week there were in fact three other suicides, it is just that they were not reported in the media. What this government is doing is homicide,” said Ashok Kumar, leader of a pensioners’ organisation.
On Wednesday, V. Roy, a KSRTC pensioner, had died of a heart problem, apparently because his pension arrears remained unpaid and he could not therefore pay for a heart surgery that would cost Rs150,000.