Two more KSRTC pensioners commit suicide in Kerala, government hastens bailout plans

Two more KSRTC pensioners commit suicide in Kerala, government hastens bailout plans

Two more KSRTC pensioners commit suicide in Kerala, government hastens bailout plans

Amid a crisis over delayed disbursement of Kerala State Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC) pensions, the state has recorded suicides by two more former employees of the corporation.

Natesh Babu, a native of Kannur, and Karunakaran from Nemom in Thiruvananthapuram were reported dead on Thursday and late Wednesday, respectively. Some of their former colleagues said the deceased were distressed over their financial situation. Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan has convened a meeting to discuss contingency measures as the ailing KSRTC, with nearly 39,000 pensioners, grapples with pension arrears of five months running to Rs 284 crore.

Last month, the issue was raised in the Legislative Assembly by the Congress-led opposition which alleged that the delays had already driven 10 KSRTC pensioners to suicide in 20 months since the CPM-led Left government took over. The protesting pensioners have been urging the government to intervene and provide financial aid to the corporation in tiding over the crisis.

Natesh Babu, a former KSRTC depot superintendent, was found dead at a lodge in Sultan Bathery in Wayanad. Police recovered a brief suicide note from his room, dated February 6. Karunakaran (76), a former mechanic, had consumed poison on February 2 and was undergoing treatment.

Finance Minister T M Thomas Isaac had, in his budget speech on February 2, said the pension arrears would be settled by March. Isaac also announced, as part of a restructuring plan, a system in which district co-operative banks would form a consortium with cooperative societies and disburse monthly pensions and arrears in the respective districts. He said the government would repay the loans, with interest, in six months.

The Department of Cooperation is working out details of a bailout scheme for the corporation but with more suicides being reported, the government has its task cut out. Leader of the Opposition Ramesh Chennithala said the government was "first accused" in the suicides.

On Wednesday, V V Roy, a 59-year-old former KSRTC employee died of heart attack in Puthuvype near Kochi, with members of his family saying he was struggling to find money for an emergency heart surgery.

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