Nilambur: A BSNL contract worker was found hanging in the Nilambur telephone exchange run by the public sector telecom operator on Thursday. He was among the contract employees who had gone without pay for the past 10 months.
Kunnath Ramakrishnan, 52, is survived by his wife and two children. The differently abled man from Kanjirampadam had been working for the BSNL as a part-time sweeper for 30 years.
Ramakrishnan went to the telephone exchange and swept up the place as usual before hanging himself. "He used to tell us how difficult it was to make both ends meet. He said he was not sure how far he could push himself," his relative, Sundaran, said. He added that Ramakrishnan used to walk several kilometres to reach the office daily as he could not afford to pay for the transport.
"He was recently told that he could only expect to work for two days in a week. He was dejected after that," Sundaran said.
Ramakrishnan was employed under a quota for the differently abled. He could not expect to find another job as he could not use one of his arms.
"His children are still at school. Now there is no one to look after them. He reached the office before anyone else and cleaned up the place and then he hanged himself."
Ramakrishnan was found hanging by the officers who reached the office around 9am. The news of the death sent shock waves across the locality, where the people and other workers took to the street to register their protest. They insisted that top officers should visit the telephone exchange before the body was taken out.
BSNL top honchos including the DGM reached Nilambur. They offered to lobby the central government to help out Ramakrishnan's family and promised to set up a fund from donations from BSNL officers working in Malappuram district.
The CITU and other trade union leaders also reached the spot. They blamed the suicide on the policies of the central government. They said that the government should make amends in its labour policies to ensure that such incidents were not repeated. They said that Ramakrishnan's family was entitled to receive financial benefits as he died while on duty.
They pointed out that Ramakrishnan's plight was not isolated and several of his colleagues were going through greater hardships as they were not paid for months.
Since June 24, the employees under the BSNL Casual Contract Labour Union (CCLU), affiliated to the CITU, has been protesting over non-payment of pending wages.
BSNL CCLU working president K Mohanan had alleged the current crisis in the BSNL was due to the Centre's move to promote Reliance Jio by denying BSNL permission for 4G services.
The ailing BSNL had also notified a voluntary retirement scheme days after the government approved its merger with MTNL.