Suicide
Kunnath Ramakrishnan (52) had been working as a part time sweeper for BSNL for the past 30 years.
Image courtesy: Facebook/United Comrades

A 52-year-old BSNL contract employee who worked at the Nilambur, Malappuram, BSNL Telephone exchange killed himself on Thursday. Kunnath Ramakrishnan was among the employees who had not received his salary for the last 10 months. 

According to reports, the differently abled man who had got a job with BSNL through a disability quota had been working with the telecom operator as a part time sweeper for the last 30 years. On Thursday, he went to the telephone exchange and swept the place before killing himself.

Ramakrishnan’s relatives who spoke to the media said that the 52-year-old has been having trouble making ends meet. He would reportedly walk to his place of work, 7 kms away, every morning as he could not afford to pay for the transport. They also added that Ramakrishnan was recently informed by the telecom operator that he could only expect to work two days a week. 

On Thursday morning, officials who reached the office at 9 am found Ramakrishnan’s lifeless body. The news of his death triggered protests with several people demanding that BSNL’s top officials arrive at the Nilambur exchange and taking to the streets to protest. 

According to the BSNL Casual Contract Labourers Union (CCLU) President K Mohanan, the contract labourers of BSNL in Malappuram have not been getting their salaries since January 2019. He also reportedly added that their work days had been cut to 3 days from 6 days and their work hours to 3 from 6, which pushed several labourers including Ramakrishnan into a deep financial crisis. He also added that the current state of BSNL was due to the centre’s move to promote Reliance Jio by denying BSNL permission for 4G services. 

Top brass of the BSNL including the Deputy General Manager visited the Nilambur exchange offered to convince the Central government and come to the aid of Ramakrishnan’s family. They also added that they would set up a fund from BSNL officers working in Malappuram.

Ramakrishnan is survived by his wife and two school young children.

Following the incident, members of CITU and other trade unions arrived at the spot and protested. They added that it was the central government’s labour policies which had led to the plight of these contract labourers and that amends should be made to ensure such incidents do not happen again. They also added that his family was entitled to financial aid as he died while on duty. 

Employees under the BSNL casual contract labour union affiliated to the CITU have been protesting over unpaid dues by the telecom operator.