Haryana tops the dubious chart of suicides in northern India, with more of its residents killing themselves than the combined number of suicides in Punjab, Himachal Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir, reveals a study published in the world's top medical journal The Lancet. In 2010, when the study was undertaken, 12 people committed suicide everyday in Haryana.
Published in the June edition of the peer-reviewed publication founded in 1823, the study, titled 'Suicide mortality in India: a national representative survey', found that in the year 2010, among the four northern Indian states, Haryana was on the top with 4,400 suicides, followed by Punjab with 1,400. Jammu and Kashmir, and Himachal Pradesh are the states where lowest number of suicides, 600 each, took place in 2010. In three of the states, Himachal being the exception, more men committed suicide than women.
In general, "poisoning, mostly from pesticides (mainly organophosphates) used in agriculture, was the leading method of suicide in both men and women", says the study, funded by US National Institute of Health.
"The main reason of large number of suicides in Punjab and Haryana could be the easy access to the pesticides. As both states have gone through Green Revolution after which pesticides were easily available," says Dr JS Thakur, one of the authors of the study and an additional professor posted in the School of Public Health at the Post-Graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research (PGI), Chandigarh.
But Dr Thakur did not give specific reasons for Haryana leading the dubious chart: "That is a matter of more detailed, future studies."
While discussing remedial measures, the study found that public health interventions such as restrictions in access to pesticides might prevent many suicide deaths in the country. "The most feasible strategy would be to reduce access to organophosphate pesticides along with public education to improve restrictions," the study found.
Self-immolation and drowning is more prevalent among women. Among men, hanging is another preferred killer.
The study also found that most of these suicides took place in the rural areas and that a large proportion of adult suicide deaths occur between the ages of 15 and 29, especially among women.
The study is based on the Registrar General of India's mortality survey conducted to determine the cause of deaths. The survey covered 6,671 small areas (each comprising about 1,000 people). As part of this survey, fieldworkers obtained information about cause of death and risk factors for suicide from close associates or relatives of the deceased individual. The authors include V Patel, C Ramasundarahettige, L Vijayakumar, JS Thakur, V Gajalakshmi, G Gururaj, W Suraweera and P Jha.