The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Death chosen in debt trap

They changed their names and left their home to hole up in a hotel. Till they could hide no more and chose death over a life of debt.

A family of three, unable to escape a debt trap, consumed poison on Friday in a hotel room of north Calcutta.

While 45-year-old Gouri Mukhopadhyay died, husband Manoj, 53, and son Aritra, 18, were battling for life at Medical College. Doctors treating the father and son said their condition was 'very critical'.

Manoj Mukhopadhyay had checked into the hotel in Bhawani Dutta Lane as Arun Chatterjee from Bhagwangola, in Behrampore. That was on May 24.

Preliminary investigation revealed Manoj to be an employee at the Divisional Railway Manager's Office in Sealdah and a resident of the railway quarters on Kankulia Road, in Ballygunge.

The Mukhopadhyays had, apparently, moved out of the Kankulia Road quarters some eight months ago and no one seemed to know of their whereabouts since then.

Sources said Aritra, whose South Point School identity card, bearing ID no. 91-0573, dating back to Class X for the session 2003-2004, was found by police, had dropped out of the south Calcutta school after Class XI.

The tragic suicide attempt by father, mother and son was discovered around 11 am when hotel staff, worried about the deathly silence in room 311, managed to peep in through a window. Gouri was seen lying still on the bed with froth on her pillow, while Manoj lay beside her, unconscious and struggling to breathe. Their teenaged son was lying on the floor, unconscious.

Manoj and Aritra were rushed to Medical College by cops from Jorasanko police station.

A bottle of pesticide ' Metacid 50, generally used by cotton farmers ' was later found in the loft of the bathroom attached to the room.

'It appears Manoj had borrowed a lot of money over a period of time from different people and was cornered by his inability to repay his debts,' said a senior officer of Jorasanko police station.

'The documents found in the hotel room reveal that he had even bought a flat in Bally for around Rs 6 lakh and was looking for a way to escape the debt trap,' added the officer.

Railway officials said Manoj had not showed up in office since July 2005 and was subsequently placed under suspension.

'Manoj Mukhopadhyay remained absent without any notification to the office,' said a spokesperson for Eastern Railway.

Notices were even sent to his railway staff quarters but since the place was firmly under lock and key, there was no one to receive it.

'Under the railway's Discipline and Appeal Rule, action was initiated against him,' the spokesperson added.

Back at the Kankulia Road railway quarters, neighbours ' some of whom were Manoj's colleagues at the DRM Sealdah office ' claimed that he had been spotted once a few months ago but had refused to divulge his address.

Some said Gouri, too, had been working in the same rail office till she opted for a VRS some four years ago. And Aritra, they said, was forced to leave school due to 'financial constraints'.

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