In the days leading up to his suicide, NRI businessman Sajan Parayil had hinted that he had lost all hope of opening his new convention centre in Kannur. The 49-year-old, who worked in Nigeria, had invested Rs 8 crore and taken 1.5 years to build the hall. Yet, the local municipality refused to grant him a simple building occupancy certificate for months together.
"It was frustrating. For the last 6 months, he spent most of his days at the Anthoor municipality office to collect the occupancy certificate to open the hall. But every time, they turned him away with trivial excuses," recalls Sajivan, the project manager of Partha builders, who constructed the auditorium. Sometimes, the excuses would be that officials were not present in the office and then they would ask him to wait or return the following day. He was also made to run from pillar to post for the most trivial reasons, Sajivan adds.
On the morning of June 18, Sajan hung himself to death in his house in Kannur. People close to him believe that it was not financial stress, but bureaucratic red tape and personal vendetta by municipality officials that drove him to death.
In the Anthoor municipality, officials, particularly its chairperson PK Shyamala, secretary MK Gireesh and Chief Engineer Kalesh have been held responsible for the delay in the certificate.
Sajan's suicide has also put the ruling CPI(M) in a tight spot as the municipality chairperson PK Shyamala is the wife of senior party leader MV Govindan Master. While Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan maintained that the municipality officials were responsible for the suicide, Sajan's family have alleged that it was Shyamala's personal vendetta against the deceased which contributed to maximum harassment.
"In 2017, the municipality had cited a non-existent technical violation stating that the setback area of the property was not correct. They demanded the construction be stopped. We then approached higher authorities, including P Jayarajan, Kannur district secretary of the CPI(M), and the district town planner. They inspected and cleared permission to build the hall," Sajivan adds.
The turf war between P Jayarajan and Shyamala has also been cited as the reason for Sajan's death, as he was caught in between. He did not know why he was not given the certificate, Sajivan says. “Eventually, we realised that it was because we had approached the district authorities in 2017 and this had offended the chairperson. She grew adamant and refused to clear the building at any cost,” he states.
"Our final option was to go to court, but Sajan decided that he did not want to spend his life running for hearings whenever summoned," Sajivan adds.
Sajan is survived by his wife Beena and two children. His family has now raised the matter with the Chief Minister, DGP, district collector and the leader of the opposition. All were prompt to respond. With the issue receiving state-wide attention, both the Secretary, Chief Engineer and Municipal Engineer of the Anthoor municipality have been suspended and orders have given for the building occupancy certificate to be issued immediately. A special team headed by Kannur DySP VK Krishnadas will probe Sajan's suicide.
Meanwhile, facing pressure from party leadership, PK Shyamala has offered to resign from her post as Chairperson. Chief Minister Pinarayi, in an Assembly meeting, also said that they will review the power that the local government authorities have.
However, these developments, unfortunately, came only after the 49-year old’s death.
"He had had enough," Sajivan says.