A 19-year-old woman and her mother committed suicide by setting themselves on fire on Tuesday after a public sector bank allegedly threatened to attach their house for failing to repay a loan they had taken to buy it at Neyyattinkara in Kerala’s Thiruvananthapuram district, the police said.
Vaishanavi, a first-year college student, succumbed to her burns while she was being rushed to a hospital. Her 40-year-old mother struggled for her life with 90% burns before she died at Thiruvananthapuram Medical College Hospital.
C K Hareendran, a local legislator who said he had earlier tried to negotiate and settle the issue, blamed Canara Bank’s “inhuman attitude for the unfortunate incident”. He sought action against the bank’s officials.
In a press release, Canara Bank said its officials had not threatened or put any pressure on the family.
Vaishanavi’s father, K Chandran, said he was not home when the two set themselves afire. “Since there was some default… about ₹6 lakh was pending and the bank had threatened to attach our property,” Chandran told reporters.
He said they had sought some time from the bank to enable them to sell their property to clear the dues. “…bank officials continuously called up my wife demanding that we repay the amount or face attachment.”
Chandran said he had loaned ₹7.80 lakh from the Canara Bank’s Neyyttinkara branch 15 years ago and had repaid ₹8 lakh. He added the bank insisted that he had to pay ₹5 lakh more as interest and other penalties.
The family’s neighbours said they had received phone calls and a message from the bank on Tuesday morning, saying the house will be attached by May 15. The mother and the daughter were really upset over the frequent visits of the bank’s officials, they said.
An official from Canara Bank, who did not want to be identified, said the family had failed to repay both the interest and the principal amount of the loan for the last five years. The official added that the bank then moved a court, which ordered the attachment if the amount was not repaid within the stipulated time. The official added that the deadline was May 15 and denied any pressure on the family.
“It was a sad incident. Officials acted as per the law. We are under pressure from seniors to clear all pending dues. It was unfair to target them,” the official said.
Senior officials of the bank were unavailable for comments.
Angry residents took to the streets in Neyyattinkara and blocked a road seeking the arrest of the manager of the bank’s local branch and other employees.
A police officer, who was not authorised to speak to the media, said they will file a case against the bank manager. He added they will examine the phones of the two to ascertain the call details from the bank.
Kerala finance minister, TM Thomas Issac, promised that the government will look into the case. “Even at the last bankers’ meeting, the government told banks not to attach houses in cases of default and deal with such issues humanely,” he said.
State revenue minister E Chandrasekharan said there was a moratorium on the recovery of all loans after the floods devastated the state last year. “It was unfair on the part of the bank to go ahead with the attachment.”
May 14, 2019 19:54 IST