The Congress-led opposition yesterday slammed the state government for harassing Gulf returnees who are seeking to set up business ventures.
The opposition blamed the government for trying to hush up the case of a Gulf returnee “who was forced to commit suicide after being bullied” by activists of the youth wing of the Communist Part of India.
The CPI is the second largest partner in the ruling Left Democratic Front led by the Communist Party of India (Marxist).
Former minister and senior Congress legislator Adoor Prakash accused the state government of trying to hush up the case of the suicide of 64-year-old Sugathan in Kollam district.
“Sugathan leased a plot of land near his home to set up his own workshop after returning from Oman. When he got the verbal sanction from the local bodies, he set up a shed there,” Prakash said in the assembly.
“But the local activists of the youth wing of the CPI put up a flag there, stating that it was a wetland and no construction would be allowed there. It is alleged these activists asked him to pay Rs2 lakhs.
“He knocked every door for justice but to no avail. Finally, on February 25, Sugathan was found hanging from a rope in the shed that he had erected,” said Prakash.
Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan condemned the incident and said three activists of the CPI had been arrested.
“The incident should have never happened. Of late, the practice of putting up a flag where new ventures are coming up does not augur well. Such acts will no longer be tolerated... With such incidents going on, we will reach nowhere. The case will be probed and action will be taken,” said Vijayan.
The Kerala State Human Rights Commission last month ordered a probe into the suicide.
The 65-year-old Sugathan worked for 35 years in Oman before returning last year to start an automobile workshop.
But he could not to cope with the extortion attempts. His family suspects foul play as the police were not providing them with the autopsy report.
“I noticed a deep wound in his leg, and we suspect they had tortured him before his death,” his son Sunil Kumar said.
“The leaders were demanding a huge amount of money to let him start his business in which he had invested all his savings.”
The area has several buildings, including an auditorium, hospital and a building materials shop constructed on levelled land.
“Quite recently, another workshop was constructed similar to our case on a levelled land. The politicians had no objection to all those constructions,” Sujith said.
Leader of the opposition Ramesh Chennithala said he was told by Sugathan’s family that he had pledged gold and got Rs63,000 which was handed over to the CPI leaders.
“Sugathan’s family wants to see all the culprits brought to justice, but at the moment attempts are being made to hush up the case. The CPI should see that all the accused are ousted from the party,” Chennithala said and walked out of the assembly.
But R Sajilal, the youth wing leader of the All India Youth Federation, the CPI’s youth wing, told reporters that what Vijayan said in the assembly was not true.
“If one takes stock of the number of instances where flags have been raised, that would definitely go to Vijayan’s party – the CPM, as it’s known to all that it is CPM which always raises flags anywhere and everywhere,” said Sajilal.
lFamily issues was the major reason for suicides in Kerala in the past two years, Vijayan said. Replying to a question in the state assembly, Vijayan said of the 12,988 suicides that took place after his government assumed office in May 2016, a total of 4,172 people took their lives because of family issues.
He also said that 2,325 people committed suicides on account of health issues, while 822 took their lives due to paucity of money and 28 did it because of mounting debt.
Of the total suicides, 2,946 were committed by women, 410 by children and the rest were adult males.
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