May Day suicide at Poona College sparks outrage
Kin of Poona College employee claim harassment behind his suicide; police book principal, registrar and chairman
A 42-year-old clerk at the Poona College allegedly ended his life by consuming a poisonous substance in the college office room as he could no longer bear the harassment at his workplace.
The clerk committed suicide on May 1, which is celebrated as Labour Day across the world.
The family of the deceased, Iqbal Ahmed Mohammed Khan, a resident of Sayyad Nagar in Hadapsar, alleged that he took the drastic step because of constant harassment, which often took the form of excessive workload.
The police said the deceased was working as a clerk and storekeeper with Poona College of Arts, Science and Commerce for the past 21 years and was lately being harassed by the college authorities.
They said on Tuesday, after coming to office at 9.30 am, he consumed a poisonous substance while at his desk. Some of his colleagues found him lying on his desk and rushed him to hospital, where he was declared dead on arrival.
A complaint was registered by Iqbal’s wife Mubina Khan.
The police booked chairman of the college Ansari Abu Saleh, Principal Dr GM Nazaruddin and college registrar Sultan Khan for abetting the suicide.
“We have booked the accused under Section 306 of the IPC and the investigation is on,” Senior Police Inspector Sushma Chavan of the Pune Cantonment police station said.
Mubina said harassment at the college was a regular affair for her husband.
“My husband was harassed by the college authorities and everyday after coming to home from the work, he used to look disturbed and depressed,” she said. “My husband had applied for eight days’ leave during our daughter’s Std X board examination, but the principal, Nazaruudin, and the registrar, Sultan Khan, had turned it down. My husband then sent the application by post and took eight days leave, and after he joined duty he was told that all his leave had been treated as leave without pay and his eight days’ salary had been deducted,” Mubina said.
She added that he later wrote a letter to general secretary Fatima Allana and college chairman Saleh, but they too did not take the cognizance of the matter.
“After this incident, Sultan started targeting my husband and used to give him extra work. He started creating trouble for him and prompted him to commit suicide,” she said.
Irregularities, harassment at Poona College not new: Staff
The suicide by a Poona College clerk, Iqbal Ahmed Mohammed Khan, on the premises on Tuesday has opened a can of worms. Several members of the college staff allege that the college management has been indulging in a lot of irregularities, favouritism and harassment, because of which many of them were forced to give up their jobs.
Some staff members claimed that the college had halted all promotions since 2007 and that the posts of registrar, senior and junior clerk, lab attendant, lab assistant, librarian and one peon were lying vacant since the past three years.
According to the staff, things started getting bad when the college management reappointed two retired professors, Masood Abdul Hai and Sultan Khan, to the posts of clerk and registrar last year and the two began imposing their authority on them.
“Iqbal was not granted leave for his daughter, who was to appear for her SSC examination, and he was further harassed and treated sordidly for about two months, because of which he was even more tense. The college chairman, Abusaleh Ansari, would always say that the management makes it own rules and does not follow anyone. We are not against the management, but we want justice,” said a staff member, requesting anonymity.
Qadir Shaikh, a 58-year-old junior clerk who is about to retire by September, said that like Iqbal even his leaves were not being sanctioned.
“Even I had approached the management for medical leave since I am suffering from back problem, but was refused even though going on leave was my fundamental right,” said Shaikh, who has been working for over 30 years and has not been promoted in all this time. “They level all sorts of accusations like I am teaming up with other trustees and conspiring against the college and the management.”
Last year the trust had served a termination notice to the principal of the college, Dr Anwar Shaikh, directing him to leave the post as the trust had claimed that his work was unsatisfactory and he was dishonest.
The college had even terminated the services of a peon, Ayub Rahim Khan, about 15 years ago when he went on a day’s sick leave on August 7, 1996.
Ayub Rahim Khan, who had been working with the college since June 1990, did not turn up for two months as he was admitted in a hospital in Ambejogai.
The college, after sending him many reminders asking him to resume duty, took action when he failed to respond.
“Despite the Bombay High Court ordering the college management to reinstate me, they did not respond. The HC order last year had stated that in case of termination of service the employer needs to give an opportunity to the employee to explain the reason behind his absence,” said Rahim Khan. “Now I have to support my family by driving a rickshaw.”
The other side
Poona College Principal Dr GM Nazaruddin refuted the allegations made by the staff, saying there were some enemies of the college who wanted to bring it a bad name. “The leaves are sanctioned as per rules. We have 19 departments in the college and if anybody needs leave, they have to seek the signature of the HoD. Iqbal did not want the HoD’s signature but the principal’s. If I’d given him the signature, then all 250 staff will come to me for leave, which is against the rules,” Nazeruddin said. He added that the management believes that Iqbal could have died of a heart attack and might not have committed suicide, as claimed by the staff. “Since we are waiting for the post-mortem report, it’s too early to reach a conclusion,” he said.