A 48-year-old bus owner allegedly committed suicide owing to financial distress at Perumbadikkunnu, near Ambalavayal, in the district on Monday night.

The police identified the deceased as P.C. Raja Mani of Palancherry under the Amabalavayal police station limits.

He was found critical in a hut at a coffee plantation near his house on Sunday morning after consuming poison, sources said. After consuming poison, he called his friends over the phone and informed them that he was in a severe financial crisis since he could not operate his bus for the past 18 months due to the COVID-19 situation. Though he was shifted to a hospital at Meppadi, he died on Monday night.

His relatives said he had borrowed nearly ₹8 lakh from various sources for repairing his bus and farming. However, he could not repay the debt as he was not able operate the bus owing to the pandemic.

Raja Mani is survived by his wife, Subhadra, and two children.

Disha suicide prevention helpline can be reached at 1056, 0471 2552056.

Operators blame govt.

The Kerala State Private Bus Operators Federation has blamed government apathy towards the public transport sector as the reason for the alleged suicide of the bus operator.

The victim was under considerable stress from financial institutions from where he had taken loans even as he was not able to operate services owing to the steep hike in fuel prices, a federation statement issued jointly by its president M.B. Sathyan, general secretary Lawrence Babu, and treasurer Hamza said.

They said the government did not even waive road tax for the quarter when the services could not be operated owing to the lockdown. The rise in diesel price by ₹31 in a year had put an additional daily burden of ₹2,500 towards fuel expenses on the operators.

“The government has not bothered to implement the Ramachandran commission report aimed at protecting the public transport sector,” it said.

Private bus operators could not meet the Chief Minister to present their grievances despite multiple efforts.

“Thousands of bus operators and employees are starving without livelihood owing to the continuing apathy of the government towards the sector. There should be immediate steps on the part of the government to bail out a sector that brought crores to the exchequer by way of taxes,” the statement said.

The federation also demanded a compensation of ₹25 lakh to the family of the deceased bus operator.

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