T Kumar, a senior photojournalist who worked for the United News of India (UNI) news agency, died by suicide in Chennai on Monday. His body was found in the UNI’s Chennai office. He was 56.
Kumar had joined UNI in 1986. Sources close to him said he was facing financial trouble and a “backlog of salaries”.
After he was found unconscious in the newsroom, a police team reached the office and rushed him to Kilpauk Government Medical College Hospital where he was declared dead. His body was handed over to his family on Monday.
A statement issued by UNI All India Employee’s Front, condoling his death, said Kumar’s wife had met with an accident a few months ago, and he had applied for an amount of at least Rs one lakh against his pending dues for her treatment. “However, he was sent a paltry sum of Rs 25,000 only. Also, Mr Kumar’s daughter’s engagement was scheduled to be solemnised next week and it is learnt that he had applied for Rs 5 lakh for the same, but the management was yet to respond,” the statement said.
Demanding an investigation and strict legal action “against those found responsible for abetting the suicide”, the statement said the UNI should pay a compensation of Rs 10 lakh immediately and clear all his legal dues within a week. The statement warned that they will be “compelled to launch an all-India level agitation” if the management fails to do the same.
The UNI Employee’s Front said Kumar’s death has “shaken up all the 250-odd UNI employees across the country, who are reeling under severe economic pressure due to the delay/non-payment of their earned wages for more than a decade now. There is a backlog of 60 months of salaries, yet the management’s callous attitude toward the dire crisis of the employees is unchanged. This month itself, a decision has been taken to stop payment of Rs 10,000,” said the statement.
The statement charged that the UNI board and management in New Delhi have created the crisis in the company due to which the employees are suffering. “Against a 60-month salary backlog, the management has been doling out a sum of Rs 15,000 in lieu of monthly salaries. At superannuation, no employee gets gratuity, pending salaries and other legal dues,” the statement said.
Condoling the death, Brihanmumbai Union of Journalists (BUJ) also expressed shock and anger. A statement issued by them demanded “a thorough investigation by law enforcing agencies against the UNI board of directors and management and strict action against those responsible for this tragic death and for the larger state of affairs in UNI.”
Chief Minister M K Stalin and the AIADMK leadership were among those who condoled his death. Stalin also ordered the assistance of Rs 3 lakh to his family from a fund for the welfare of journalists.
Opposition leader Edappadi K Palaniswami urged the state government to grant his family Rs 25 lakh. AIADMK coordinator O Panneerselvam, in his message, said he was pained to note that Kumar ended his life due to stress.
Kumar is survived by his wife, son and daughter.