STOCK MARKET CRASH DRIVES SUB-BROKER AND WIFE TO SUICIDE 

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By BY AVIJIT NANDI MAJUMDAR AND DEBASHIS CHATTOPADHYAY in Calcutta
  • Published 18.03.01
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Calcutta, March 18 :    Calcutta, March 18:  The stock market crash claimed its first victims when Abhishek Banka, a sub-broker, committed suicide and, unable to bear the loss, his wife Sona threw herself from a highrise. The bloated body of 22-year-old Abhishek, missing since Wednesday, was today found floating along the bank of the Hooghly. Six hours later, Sona jumped to her death from her parents' ninth floor apartment on Russel Street. Police said Abhishek appeared to have been driven to suicide after suffering losses of Rs 86 lakh in the stock market collapse since the budget. They said the sub-broker with Suresh Kumar Fogla & Associates blamed himself for the losses. "Our preliminary findings suggest that Abhishek was deeply unsettled when he learnt about the losses suffered (mostly between March 10 and 14). His own bankruptcy left him devastated. As is evident from the stray comments he had made in his close circles, he blamed himself for the way things went wrong," said Ranjit Pachnanda, deputy commissioner of police. The young couple, who married just over a year ago, lived in the Ganga Jamuna building, a landmark on Shakespeare Sarani. The officer-in-charge of the Shakespeare Sarani police station, S.R. Roy, quoting from records the police have found, said Abhishek had invested a sizeable chunk of his personal savings as well as clients' funds in the market in the first week of March. On February 28, when the budget was presented, the stock market went up sharply, possibly raising hopes in Abhishek of a sustained upswing, which did not happen, catching many unawares. Between March 1 and 14, the Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE) sensitive index dropped 546 points and the market lost Rs 14,883 crore in share value. Such was the impact of the plunge that it has led to an inquiry, claimed the head of the BSE president and caused a payment crisis on the Calcutta Stock Exchange. S.K. Sonkhalia, a relative, said Abhishek had looked "disturbed and hassled" on the evening of March 14 when he returned home. "Abhishek barely ate anything. He went to his room where he was alone till Sona returned from the neighbour's where she had gone for a chat. Detecting the tension in her husband, she spoke to him for about 10 minutes, trying to set his mind at peace," Sonkhalia added. The gateman at Ganga Jamuna building and a neighbour, who were the last to see him, recall that Abhishek looked "disturbed" as he walked out on March 14 evening. "Let me discuss the matter with a couple of friends," Abhishek had told Sona. When he did not return till late night, the family lodged a missing diary at the Shakespeare Sarani police station. In the early hours of Sunday, his body was found near Howrah bridge. After the news was broken to Sona, her parents and family decided to bring her to their apartment at 5B Russel Street. "We wanted to be with her, console her. Family members were resting in their rooms when Sona went out on the verandah around 2.45 pm," her brother Sanju Nangolia said. Suddenly, there was a sound followed by commotion. A durwan knocked on the door and told Sanju that Sona was lying downstairs in a pool of blood.