A mother and her two daughters died and the father suffered severe burns on Monday when the family set themselves on fire outside the Tirunelveli district collectorate to protest the harassment faced from a moneylender.
The four doused themselves with fuel and immolated themselves in front of passersby and police personnel.
In videos and photographs circulated in the social media, people were seen throwing sand on them to put out the fire. They were taken to the Tirunelveli Government Medical College.
According to sources in the district collectorate, the family had submitted six petitions to the district collector seeking protection from moneylenders. “But the police did not take action,” said a senior official.
P Isakimuthu, 28, who is still critical, is a daily wage labourer. His wife Subbulakshmi was 25 and two daughters Madhi Sarvinya and Akshaya Baranika were five and two years old.
According to police and district officials, the family was trapped in debt after Subbulakshmi borrowed Rs 1.45 lakh from a moneylender, T Muthulakshmi, eight months ago. Although the family had repaid Rs 2.34 lakh, including interest, the lender and his aides had been harassing them demanding Rs 1.45 lakh more.
While the six petitions to the district collector always travelled through the formal channels no action was taken.