A political slugfest has begun between the United Democratic Front (UDF) and the Left Democratic Front (LDF) over the recent death of a 77-year-old differently abled man from Chakkittapara in Kozhikode district, who was reportedly in a financial crisis after he was denied the social security pension for five months.
V. Joseph of Muthukad was found dead at his house on January 23. Two of his daughters are married, and the third one, a bed-ridden patient, was sent to a care home after his wife’s death last year. The incident snowballed into a controversy after it was revealed that Joseph had sent a letter to the grama panchayat secretary and memorandums to other officials, including the police and the Kozhikode District Collector, explaining his financial difficulties. In the letter to the panchayat secretary in November, Joseph had said that he could no longer live on borrowed money, and that there was no one to help him. He had also mentioned that he would end his life outside the panchayat office if the social security pension due for himself and his daughter were not sanctioned in 15 days.
The UDF joined the issue soon, with its elected members in the panchayat alleging that the local body had ignored Joseph’s plea for help though the authorities denied the charges. On January 24, the district leaders of the UDF, including district Congress committee president K. Praveenkumar, Indian Union Muslim League district president M.A. Razak, and M.K. Raghavan, MP, staged a demonstration outside the district collectorate parading his body.
Subsequently, the panchayat authorities, including its president K. Sunil of the CPI(M), held a press meet on January 25, blaming a local journalist for the death. They also demanded that a case of suicide be registered against him. Mr. Sunil claimed that it was the journalist who helped Mr. Joseph prepare the letter that he later sent to the panchayat secretary. The panchayat authorities alleged that the same journalist had earlier prompted Joseph to visit government offices with kerosene and a torch threatening to end his life.
They claimed that Joseph owned one-and-a-half acres of land. Soon after he had written the letter to the panchayat official, Mr. Sunil visited him at his house. He was given the option to be part of works under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, and he completed 99 mandays. He was given ₹28,000 as wages last year and ₹24,200 as social security pension for himself and his daughter. The panchayat sanctioned ₹4 lakh to him to construct a house after including Joseph on the list of extremely poor people. A three-wheeler was allotted to him, a road constructed to his house, and 10 kg of cereals was being sent to his house every month, they added.
However, Jithesh Muthukad, panchayat member representing the Congress, on Saturday told The Hindu that the claims of the authorities were “misleading” and “absurd”. “We are planning a press meet on January 29 to prove our points,” he added.