NRI Worker commits suicide after failing to get salary for months


DUBAI, 12 December 2004
Khaleej Times

A 24 year-old Indian worker committed alleged suicide in his living quarters on Thursday morning, as he failed to get salary for the past few months and his family was drowning in debt, according to co-workers.

A.Venkatesan, a native of Chennai, who had been hired by Keith International as an electrician, had started work here in January last. He had paid about Rs100,000 (Dh7,500) to agents back home for the work permit at a heavy interest rate, according to a hand-written "suicide note" that the worker left in his room before the death.

"Venketesan's family was steadily drowning in debt with each passing month as he could not send money home to repay the loan. Being the sole breadwinner in his family, Venketesan has left behind his two sisters and ailing parents", co-workers said.

In the suicide note, written in his mother-tongue, Tamil, a copy of which was obtained by Khaleej Times, the deceased worker bitterly complained about the reasons behind his drastic step and put the blame for his death solely on his company.

"I have been made to work without any money for (the past few) months. Now, for a month, I have been suffering from constant headache and wanted to visit a doctor to examine my condition. I approached the camp boss for Dh 50 but he refused to pay me the money and told me to go back to work," Venketesan wrote.

"My family means everything to me. My older sister has two daughters and I have seen the face of only one of them. I do not think it is possible to see my second niece in this life. I am very worried about my youngest sister's marriage and education, and want my friends to help my family out in any way possible after my death. After my death, I want the company to pay all my salary dues to my family and repay the financial debt my family has incurred because of them," he wrote.

Avdesh Kumar, Venketesan's room-mate who was the first to spot the body, recounts the sequence of events on that fateful day. "Venketesan had been writing this letter for the past four days, and when we asked him, he said he was writing to his family back home. We asked him on Wednesday whether he had finally finished it, he replied "Yes, it's over now".

"On Thursday morning, we all went for work, but he said he would catch up with us later. In the evening, when we returned, we found our room locked," he said.

" I opened the door and the room was all dark. I switched on the light and was shocked to see Venketesan's body hanging from the ceiling fan. He had used a nylon rope to tie around his neck; and when we saw it, his body had touched the floor (possibly) due to the stretching. It is an image I can never erase from my mind," said Avdhesh, his voice chocking with emotion.

" He was a good man. He didn't deserve this as he was always nice to everybody," said Ashraf, another one of Venketesan's friends.

Giving an insight into Venketesan's desperate situation, Awdesh said, "A day before his death, he borrowed 50 fils from me to buy a postage stamp to post the letter to his family. His situation was such that he didn't even have enough money to bid his family good-bye."

Venketesan's friends say that he never talked about his depression with anybody and it was only after his death that they realised how anguished he was. "He was always very quiet and reserved. I never heard him raising his voice. We all miss him," said Saif, another worker.

The workers of the company have, meanwhile, approached the Indian Consulate for help and will be holding a meeting with the company officials today. "I advised these men to streamline their work through the Consulate as it would make their case stronger. We are yet to verify the full facts of the story. We shall try to help them in any way possible," said K. Kumar, President of the Indian Association, Dubai.

According to investigation sources, Venketesan was suffering from severe depression that ultimately led to his death. "Nearly 75-80% of suicide cases over here are due to the same reason. Loneliness coupled with a strong sense of helplessness drive many people to take this extreme step," said the source.

The company has nearly 250 workers, all of them employed from the Indian states of Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Kerala.

Venkestesan's body now lies in the police morgue and his family is yet to be notified of his death. Meanwhile, company officials say that they were unable to pay their workers due to certain situations, but are taking measures to settle their dues soon.