Jeenamol Joseph allegedly suffered mental trauma according to an FIR based on her brother’s complaint. The company has however staunchly denied that she was laid off or asked to relocate.

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Coronavirus Suicide Monday, May 11, 2020 - 17:06

The COVID-19 pandemic and the resultant economic slump have already triggered a wave of job losses and salary cuts across the country.

On the night of May 6, Jeenamol Joseph, an employee with IT major Wipro, killed herself at her house in Kainady, Alappuzha. The deceased, who was the daughter of PJ Joseph and Graisamma of Puthenparambil house in Kavalam, had been working from Wipro’s office at Kochi’s Infopark before the COVID-19 lockdown. She, however, moved back to Alappuzha and had been working from home since early March.

According to a First Information Report (FIR) lodged based on the complaint given by Jeena’s brother, the deceased “had faced mental trauma and resentment over losing her job, which caused her to end her life.” She was found dead at 9:30 am on May 7, 2020. The document, however, does not mention Wipro anywhere, with the name and details of the accused left as ‘unknown’. The company has however staunchly denied that she was laid off or asked to relocate.

While the FIR lodged at the Kainady police station mentions that Jeena had lost her job, sources at Infopark state that they don't have clarity as yet on the status of Jeena’s position at Wipro and the exact reasons for her suicide. 

“According to some of the employees, she was informed by colleagues via a phone call that the company had laid her off. This caused her a lot of trauma and she decided to kill herself. However, other sources at Infopark state that her project - which dealt with credit cards - had been shelved and that the whole team had been asked to take a transfer to Hyderabad post lockdown. She was upset with this and decided to kill herself,” a source from Inforpark told TNM on the condition of anonymity.

Anish adds that although the Central and state governments have issued guidelines to private firms against retrenchment, several companies have been processing layoffs and salary cuts discreetly. 

When TNM reached out to Wipro, the company confirmed that Jeenamol was their employee, but claimed that "there was no truth in the rumours of her layoff".

“We are deeply saddened by the tragic news of the passing of our colleague. Our prayers and thoughts are with her family and we will extend all possible support to them in this hour of grief. We will also extend our cooperation to the local investigating authorities. She was a Wipro employee and there is no truth in the rumors that she was laid off.  

Separately, the speculation related to the workforce is unfounded and has no basis. Wipro categorically denies these rumors.  Also, the company wants to reiterate that there are no retrenchment plans. Wipro has well defined policies and people practices in place,” Wipro’s statement read.

On whether the project was cancelled and Jeena was relocated, Wipro said, "Wipro cannot comment on  specific customer engagements. The employee was based in Kochi and was not asked to relocate. We have no further comments.”

Speaking to TNM, the station house officer of Kainady station added that the matter was being investigated and that the police were yet to identify if "the suicide was indeed triggered by the job loss". TNM also reached out to Jeena’s family members but they declined to speak. 

Meanwhile, the issue came to the notice of Kerala Finance Minister Thomas Isaac who told Open magazine that the issue will certainly be looked into by the government. Several trade unions too have petitioned the Chief Minister and the state government regarding Jeena’s suicide and the layoffs due to COVID-19. 

Speaking to Open, TB Mini, state secretary of Trade Union Centre of India (TUCI), said that they have petitioned to the Chief Minister to urgently look into Jeena’s suicide. 

Progressive Techies, a welfare organisation of IT employees in Kerala, too have submitted a representation to the Kerala government asking intervention from the state to prevent job loss. 

Wipro has also come under fire in Pune, Maharashtra, for allegedly benching 300 employees during the lockdown. The Maharashtra Labour Commission issued a notice to Wipro’s Pune branch after receiving a complaint by an IT union, National Information Technology Employees’ Senate (NITES), based in the state. 

(With inputs from Shilpa S Ranipeta) 

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