Thousands of tourists visit the iconic Hussain Sagar Lake in the heart of Hyderabad every year, drawn to the buzzing spot for its beauty, serenity and an imposing statue of the Buddha.
But unknown to many, the lake that divides the twin cities of Hyderabad and Secunderabad has a rotten side – unimaginable levels of pollution and a notorious tag of being the suicide hotspot of the state, with people travelling from far flung places in Telangana or Andhra Pradesh to end their lives.
This year, 40 people have already killed themselves by jumping into the lake while the police has saved another 205 lives.
In addition to usual reasons such as financial troubles, health problems or domestic disputes, authorities say many teenagers are now trying to kill themselves due to petty issues such as being scolded by parents and sibling fights. Police has also apprehended many women —with young children in tow — who wanted to end their lives at the lake.
“This is a kind of anomalous situation because most of the times such people go to lonely places or stay back in their homes to end their lives,” feels Chennuri Sateesh, a sociologist at Hyderabad Central University.
Anant Maringanti, executive director of Hyderabad Urban Labs, is of the view it will not be easy to find out why people choose the lake. He, however, believes it is unusual as it was thought that suicides have come down.
He recalled few years ago they worked on how to stop the suicides.
“Think about it. If somebody falls in a well, we will not use the water for a whole one year but here we have a lake where people are dying but we still think it as the pride of the city. It is indicative of larger social turmoil,” said the sociologist.
Such was the magnitude of the problem that a special police station was set up near the lake in 2004 but it is only during last couple of years that police presence was increased. K. Sreedevi, who is heading nearly 50-member strong force, believes people having suicidal tendencies prefer drowning in water than hanging or setting themselves afire.
Since the lake area falls under three police stations, Lake Police refer the cases to concerned station after saving people or retrieving bodies as it has no power to register an FIR.
“We have deployed one constable at every half kilometer. They keep a close watch on people coming near the lake. If we suspect somebody, we call his family members to cross check,” Sreedevi said.
Their work is aided by local vendors, who alert officials when they spot people sitting at one place for a long time or moving dangerously close to lake. “We have stepped up patrolling during night time because this is the time when people succeed in their attempts,” she said.
The inspector also counsels rescued people and tells them by ending their lives they are creating more problems for their near and dear ones. “Sometimes, we show them putrefied bodies recovered from lake. We counsel them to live a full life given by god and fight to overcome problems,” Sreedevi said.
According to the police, 38 persons committed suicide in 2013 and 46 in 2014. The police saved 77 in 2013 and 82 in 2014.
This year, 40 committed suicide while police managed to save 205. The number of saved this year include 119 women and 27 children.