25,000 suicides linked to debt, jobs in three years: Govt in Rajya Sabha
Unemployment and bankruptcy (or indebtedness) were cited as the trigger in 25,231 suicides in the three most recent years for which full year data is available: 2018, 2019 and 2020
There was an over 24% jump in the number of suicides in India due to unemployment in 2020, compared to the year before, the Union government said in a response to Rajya Sabha on Wednesday.
The submission, citing National Crime Records Bureau data released in October 2021, reinforces anecdotal wisdom that the pandemic triggered significant distress when the country was locked down and all but essential service industries ground to a halt for months.
According to the submission by the minister of state for home affairs, Nityanand Rai, unemployment and bankruptcy (or indebtedness) were cited as the trigger in 25,231 suicides in the three most recent years for which full year data is available: 2018, 2019 and 2020.
The cumulative figure between 2020 and 2019 including the three causes, which signify financial distress, was roughly the same since suicides due to debt shrunk significantly in 2020. The difference, however, was made up by suicides due to unemployment.
The response was to a question by Rajya Sabha members Vishambar Prasad Nishad, Sukhram Singh Yadav and Chhaya Verma who sought details on deaths by suicide due to unemployment and financial crisis.
HT on October 21 reported that while the number of road accidents and associated deaths fell sharply in the pandemic’s first year, suicides saw a large increase. Among those who died by suicide, students and small entrepreneurs saw the biggest jump.
In absolute terms, the NCRB report said there were 153,052 deaths by suicides, the highest number since 1967; the earliest period for which data is available. This number increased by 10% from 2019 -- the year-on-year jump is the fourth highest since 1967.
Rai enumerated several steps that were cited as government’s initiatives to mitigate distress. Among these were the National Mental Health Programme (NMHP).
“The programme aims to provide suicide prevention services, workplace stress management, life skills training and counselling in schools and colleges; mental health services including prevention, promotion and long-term continuing care at different levels of district healthcare delivery system and promote community awareness and participation in the delivery of mental healthcare services,” he said in the written statement.
Rai also listed various initiatives started by the government to generate employment and income. He listed Aatmanirbhar Bharat Rojgar Yojana (ABRY), National Career Service (NCS) Project and the National Career Service (NCS) Project among others.
Earlier this month, the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE) had said that the unemployment rate in India was 6.57% in January.
“To my mind, it is obvious that there would have been an increase in material distress and desperation over the past two years, which could certainly lead to worsening outcomes like suicide, which is the final act of desperation,” said Economist Jayati Ghosh.
Ghosh also stated the actual suicide rates might be even higher as there is a generation of young people who face a terrifying, jobless future even if they have been through higher education.
“India is the country that has experienced the greatest decline in employment, the biggest fall in self-employed livelihoods, and the largest increases in poverty and hunger, in the world. The central government has provided very little in terms of social protection, so these consequences have to be faced by people who get next to no public support,” she added.