Harassed over debt, man sets self, family ablaze in Tirunelveli

Preliminary investigation by the police revealed that usury was the reason behind the family taking the extreme decision.

Updated - October 24, 2017 07:48 am IST

Published - October 23, 2017 12:14 pm IST - TIRUNELVELI:

A woman and her two children, who were set ablaze by her husband on the Tirunelveli Collectorate premises on Monday, being taken to hospital by the police.

A woman and her two children, who were set ablaze by her husband on the Tirunelveli Collectorate premises on Monday, being taken to hospital by the police.

Esakimuthu, a labourer who had submitted repeated petitions to the Tirunelveli Collector seeking relief from harassment over unpaid debt, set himself and his family ablaze at the Tirunelveli Collectorate premises on Monday morning.

The victims were rushed to the Tirunelveli Medical College and Hospital (TVMCH) where Easkimuthu is in a critical condition. His wife Subbulakshmi and minor daughters Mathi Saranya (4) and Akshaya Bharanitha (18 months) succumbed to severe burns later in the evening.

A resident of Kasidharmam under Achchanpudhur police station, Esakkimuthu had borrowed ₹1.45 lakh from a moneylender Muthulakshmi a few months ago to help his relative Kannammal. Though he had reportedly repaid ₹2.34 lakh towards the principal and the interest, Muthulakshmi was allegedly harassing him for a further ₹2 lakh.

Seeking police intervention to end the harassment, Esakkimuthu had submitted petitions to the Collector at six weekly grievance redressal meetings, usually organised on Mondays.

However, according to Esakkimuthu’s brother Gopi, the police, instead of reprimanding the moneylender, also harassed his brother after he submitted the petitions and coerced him to pay the amount demanded by Muthulakshmi.

On Monday, Gopi had accompanied Esakkimuthu and his family to the Collectorate. Even as the grievance redressal meeting was underway in the District Development Council Hall in the Collectorate, where officials were receiving petitions, Esakkimuthu poured kerosene on himself and his family and set them ablaze.

Gopi had gone to a nearby tea stall when his brother took the extreme step.

On hearing the screams from the family engulfed in flames, other petitioners waiting to meet officials and and members of the public at the Collectorate tried to put out the flames. However, Esakkimuthu had doused his family with nearly five litres of kerosene and the family suffered serious burns before help came.

The police on the Collectorate premises rushed the victims to the TVMCH before the Fire and Rescue Services personnel arrived.

Since the condition of the victims was critical, Judicial Magistrate Karthikeyan obtained a declaration from Esakkimuthu and Subbulakshmi at the hospital.

Collector Sandeep Nanduri also visited the TVMCH to enquire about the condition of the victims from the Dean, K. Sithya Athiya Munavarah. “The victims sustained 75% burns,” he said.

“We’ll concentrate on this serious issue by forming a police special squad to enquire into the complaints pertaining to usury,” Mr Nanduri added.

(Assistance for overcoming suicidal thoughts is available on the State’s health helpline 104 and Sneha’s suicide prevention helpline 044-24640050.)

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