Sangrur: Distraught over not being paid for 36 months, an employee of the Baba Hira Singh Bhattal Institute of Engineering and Technology, a Punjab government establishment in the town of Lehragaga in Sangrur, committed suicide on Tuesday evening.
Devinder Verma, who worked as a college clerk, which has been facing a severe financial crisis for three years and is about to close, was found hanging from a ceiling fan in his office on college premises.
Also in February 2020, Devinder attempted suicide in his office but was saved by colleagues protesting on campus for the release of their salaries.
A total of 105 employees, including teaching and non-teaching staff, have not been paid in the past three years. Employees have been sitting on an indefinite protest at the college’s main gate for three months.
In 2019, the state government decided to close the college and move staff and students to other colleges, but the plan did not come to fruition.
Raj Kumar, one of the employees, said the state government and local administration should be held accountable for Devinder’s death as no attention was given to their demand for release of their wages.
“We have met with senior officials, relevant ministers and MPs, but to no avail,” he said, adding that employees had demanded the registration of a criminal case against officials, who called their request illogical wage demand.
Members of the BKU (Ekta Ugarahan) also joined the protesting workers on Wednesday. The family and protesters refused to cremate Devinder’s body until salaries were released, in addition to a government job for the victim’s wife.
Deputy Superintendent of Police Manoj Gorsi said they are recording the victim’s family members’ statement for further investigation.
Deputy Commissioner Ramvir said the government has responded to protesters’ demands. “The relatives of the victim will receive ₹10 lakh compensation and government job,” he said.
According to a report prepared by a committee of IK Gujral Punjab Technical University, Kapurthala, and Maharaja Ranjit Singh Punjab Technical University, Bathinda, the annual expenses of the institute were ₹11 crore against an annual income of ₹1.94 crore, resulting in a deficit of approximately ₹9 crores.
Launched as a government polytechnic in 1995, the institute was transformed into an autonomous body named after freedom fighter Baba Hira Singh Bhattal, father of former Chief Minister Rajinder Kaur Bhattal.