School bus driver immolates himself after losing job

Sreekumar took the autorickshaw towards a bylane near the school, poured petrol over his body and immolated himself.

Sreekaryam (Thiruvananthapuram): In a tragic incident, a middle-aged school bus driver who lost job immolated himself in his autorickshaw near the educational institution where he was employed for over a decade until the COVID-19 lockdown last year.

Sreekumar, 55, of Vattapara took his own life near the Chempaka International School, Edavakode, at 8 am on Monday. He was employed here for the past 16 years, but he was fired by the new management of the school.

A suicide note believed to have been written by Sreekumar was recovered from his friend’s house in which he attributed his suicide to financial problems in the wake of Covid shutdowns and the loss of job soon after the reopening of school.

In all 84 non-teaching staff, including Sreekumar and his wife Bindu, were agitating for the last couple of months against the move to sack them.

Crestfallen on arrival

Sreekumar took the extreme step as soon as he found new contract employees on duty in place of people like him who were replaced. On Monday, he had arrived in his three-wheeler at 7.30 am in order to resume duties after the intervention of the District Labour Officer. He was shocked to see other employees driving the school vehicles. Unable to bear this, he took the autorickshaw towards a bylane near the school, poured petrol over his body and immolated himself.

His burnt body lay in the gutted vehicle for 5 hours as other terminated employees and his relatives insisted on the intervention of the district administration. The body was taken for autopsy after the sub collector, tehsildar and other officials held discussions with the protestors.

Sreekumar is survived by wife Bindu, children Darshana and Gayathri, a class-10 student.

Compensation announced

The school management has announced Rs 15.50 lakh compensation for the bereaved family, job for his wife and monthly assistance of Rs 10,000.

The first installment of compensation, Rs 5 lakh, was handed over to the family on Monday itself. The management assured to re-employ the staff members who were terminated earlier.

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