A day after Tripura Police launched a crackdown against unregistered battery-operated auto-rickshaws, a tomtom driver Vivekananda Malakar allegedly committed suicide Saturday by ingesting sleeping pills and rat kill poison. He was in debt from purchasing the electric vehicle. The deceased’s family has alleged that the government’s decision to halt unregistered Tomtoms forced Malakar to death.
Vivekananda’s wife says he committed suicide out of desperation under pressure of debt and no way of repaying them since the government had ordered to keep tomtoms off the streets. “My husband bought a tomtom two years back with Rs 1.60 lakhs which he loaned from banks and micro-finance organizations. He still had Rs. 70,000 in outstanding debt. But after the government started a crackdown on Tomtoms, he had no income and had no way to pay off his debts. So, he committed suicide”, his wife Sumitra Malakar told indianexpress.com.
Meanwhile, a group of Tomtom drivers who gathered at Gobinda Ballabh Pant (GBP) Hospital to protest on Vivekananda’s death, have engaged in a brawl with local people.
The deceased Tomtom driver hailed from Ambassa in Tripura’s Dhalai district and had been living at Indranagar, in the outskirts of Agartala city, for last 17 years. “We are in utter distress. This order to stop Tomtoms is responsible for his death. I request the government to ensure three square meals for us and reconsider the decision to halt Tomtoms”, Sumitra added.
A medical officer on duty, who pronounced Vivekananda’s death, said the body was sent for post mortem examination. However, relatives of the deceased suggest he died from ingesting sleeping pills and poison, the medical officer said.
Speaking to reporters, Superintendent of Traffic Pinaki Samanta informed that the state government instructed all Tomtoms to register with the Department of Transport by July 31. Though these vehicles are plying on the streets since 2013, only 49 such vehicles were registered till date.
As per the Transport Department, authorities are ready to register around 400 Tomtoms right away. The government has been appealing owners to register themselves for the last 6 months. However, the drivers didn’t show much interest in complying with the law. 48 Tomtoms were caught without registration till yesterday and 7-8 vehicles were seized without valid documents on Saturday.