Grounded Kingfisher Airlines staff’s wife commits suicide in Delhi

      Tragedy struck the family of an out-of-work Kingfisher Airlines staff on Thursday afternoon, when his wife committed suicide due to financial woes. Police said that Sushmita Chakravarty committed suicide at around 3.30 pm today, unable to deal with the financial problems facing her family.

Media reported that she decided to end her life after the family could not put up the money required to send one of their children abroad for higher learning. The news of the suicide is likely to have a major impact on Kingfisher Airlines efforts to resolve an ongoing labour dispute with their employees. So far, negotiations in Delhi have "ended in failure" because the airline is refusing to commit to paying overdue salaries to the employees.

Kingfisher, once India's second-largest airline, is more than half a year behind on salary payments and has grounded its fleet since Monday after a protest by engineers over the weekend turned violent. Talks with employees in Mumbai on Wednesday ended in a stalemate. "Employees demanded payment of long pending salary (seven months) prior to resuming operations. All employees expressed their keenness to resume work provided their dues are cleared expeditiously," the group of unidentified employees in Delhi said in a statement on Thursday.

The shutdown has further dimmed the outlook for the airline controlled by liquor baron Vijay Mallya. Kingfisher, which has never turned a profit since its founding in 2005, is saddled with 1.4 billion dollar in debt, owed mostly to government banks led by State Bank of India . The lenders, which have refused to provide more funds without a capital injection into the carrier, planned to meet with the airline later on Thursday.

In Delhi on Thursday, several members of Kingfisher's ground crew outside the hotel near the airport where the meeting took place said they were willing to return to work. A company official also said some employees in Delhi had agreed to go back to work, and that the airline expected to resume operations in four or five days. "About 100 people here agreed to return to work unconditionally," Sanjay Bahadur, vice-president of corporate affairs, had told reporters after the meeting. He also said the airline expects to pay salaries for March "within a week or so." However, the later statement by a group of pilots and engineers based in Delhi said the talks had collapsed.

An official with India's aviation regulator said on Tuesday that Kingfisher would not get government approval to resume flying unless it pays salaries and submits an acceptable recovery plan. Kingfisher's website was not accepting bookings for flights before October 8. Before this week's shutdown, Kingfisher operated just 10 planes out of a fleet that once numbered 64, and its market share was the smallest among India's six main carriers.

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