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Harassment drives family to self-immolation, 3 killed in Tamil Nadu

Esakkimuthu’s brother, Gopi, said that his brother’s family was trapped by a moneylender.

Tirunelveli: ‘Kanduvetti’ (lending money at usurious interest rates) related family traumas made a shocking re-entry, on Monday, as three persons of a family of four including a woman and her two daughters succumbed to severe burn injuries they suffered in an open self-immolation at the Tirunelveli district collector’s office.

The family head Esakkimuthu, a daily wage worker, is undergoing treatment with third degree burns.

While the family had resorted to this unbelievably self-tormenting step to protest the alleged lethargy of the police and the district administration towards his complaint against an usurer, the gruesome incident happened in broad daylight at around 11 am on Monday in front of the hall where the public grievances redressal meeting was on at the Collectorate.

Esakkimuthu (27), a daily wager from Kasidharmam village near Kadayanallur in Tirunelveli district along with his wife, Subbulakshmi and their two daugters, Mathisaranya (4) and Akshayabaraniya (2), came to the district collector’s office and were waiting under a tree in front of the public grievances day meeting hall when he suddenly doused himself, his wife and children with kerosene and set themselves on fire, tightly hugging his wife and children.

As the fire raged, members of the public and police personnel nearby put out the fire after struggling for about 15 minutes. By then the four were critically injured and were rushed to the Tirunelveli medical college hospital in a police vehicle.

Esakkimuthu’s younger brother, Gopi, who accompanied his brother’s family to the district collector’s office, asked his brother to wait under the tree and went out on personal work, when Esakkimuthu had resorted to this extreme decision.
Rushing to the hospital on hearing of the incident, Gopi, in great depression, banged his head against the glass window pane of the hospital and injured himself.

According to Gopi, his brother’s family was trapped by a usurer, Muthulakshmi, who too is a distant relative of Esakkimuthu, tortured him and his family demanding double the amount of Rs 1.45 lakh she had lent to Esakkimuthu a few years ago.

Muthulakshmi is alleged to have been supported by a retired sub-inspector of the same village, who in turn allegedly influenced the local police  (Achanputhur police), not to take on file the complaint against the usurious moneylender. Instead, the Achanputhur police registered a complaint preferred by Muthulakshmi that Esakimuthu was cheating her of Rs 1.45 lakh and jewels worth Rs 60,000.

“As the local police was not taking his complaint, Esakkimuthu sought the intervention of the Tirunelveli district collector and submitted a petition on the issue six times but in vain.  With the police and the  district administration having failed him, a deeply dejected Esakkimuthu, has resorted to this extreme step of burning himself as he believed at least then the officialdom would wake up to the issue of usury,” said Gopi, who too is undergoing treatment for his head injury in the same hospital.

The police and the district administration, shell shocked over the extreme step of the daily wager and his family, suddenly plunged in to action shirking off its lethargy and immediately arrested the usurer, Muthulakshmi and registered a case.

As all the four members were in a critical state, Magistrate Karthikeyan of
Tirunelveli JM court-III, recorded the statement of Esakkimuthu at the hospital in the presence of Tirunelveli RDO, Mythili, and Palayamkottai tahsildar, Thangaraj.

The district collector, Sandeep Nanthuri, who also visited the hospital, responding to the media on the complaint of apathy of the district  administration towards Esakkimuthu’s problem, said that he had referred the complaint petition submitted by Esakkimuthu to the district police and had recommended enquiry into it.

The Tirunelveli district SP, Dr Arun Sakthi Kumar, speaking to DC over phone, however, denied the allegations against the police in the issue and said that the Achanputhur police registered a case given by both the parties and were investigating. But this unfortunate thing has happened before the investigations could be completed.

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