FACING THE loss of their house due to default on a home loan of Rs 7 lakh, their hopes dashed by a buyer who failed to turn up on the last day of a deadline agreed with the bank, a mother and her daughter died after setting themselves on fire Tuesday in a Thiruvananthapuram suburb.
Police said the mother Lekha (42), and her daughter Vaishnavi (19), were found with “serious burn injuries” inside a room of their house, “indicating that they had entered into a suicide pact”.
Following the incident in Neyyattinkara, local residents gathered to protest outside the local branch of Canara Bank, demanding that a case be registered against its employees for abetment to suicide. Expressing displeasure over the bank’s action, Kerala Revenue Minister E Chandrasekharan has sought a report from the district administration on the incident.
A bank employee said they had “given time to settle the loan” availed in 2003 and initiated recovery proceedings only after approaching the court. Police said Vaishnavi died on the spot while Lekha succumbed to burn injuries at a local hospital.
Lekha’s husband and house owner Chandran, who had returned recently from the Gulf after losing his job as a carpenter, told reporters that his wife and daughter were “shattered” as the deadline ended. Chandran and Lekha had named their home “Vaishnavam House”, after their only child who was pursuing a degree course in college.
“I availed the loan for constructing the house in 2003. I had repaid Rs 5 lakh, but could not complete the loan due to a financial crisis. The bank wanted me to pay another sum of Rs 6.80 lakh, including interest. I had pleaded with the bank to give me more time, I was willing to sell the house to repay the loan. But my wife and daughter were upset over the threat and took this extreme step,’’ he said.
Police said they have recovered a “consent letter” submitted by Chandran to a panel appointed by the court, in which he stated that he would repay Rs 6.80 lakh to the bank by May 14, and that the bank could proceed with recovery proceedings if he failed to do so.
However, Y Lekha, president of the local Kollayil panchayat, alleged that bank employees had been forcing the family to repay the loan. “A month ago, we had intervened and asked the bank to stay their action until the house was sold to repay the debt. Chandran’s property covers 10 cents (4,356 sq ft) and should fetch a market price of Rs 50 lakh. But he was willing to sell it for Rs 24 lakh to repay the loan. A buyer had come forward to finalise the sale but failed to turn up today,’’ she said.
When contacted, a Canara Bank employee at the Neyyattinkara branch said: “Chandran had defaulted on the loan since 2010, and bank initiated recovery proceedings. We moved the court and went through the legal route. We had asked him to repay at least a portion of the loan.”