The report a telling commentary on ‘Achhe Din’
By Abdul Bari Masoud
Under a government that rode to power touting Achhe Din (prosperous era) but its failed, insensitive and divisive policies pushed nearly one million Indians into ending their lives by committing suicide during the last seven years. On the other hand, while 100 Indian billionaires increased their wealth by Rs 13 lakh crore, over 12 crore Indians lost their jobs in just one year.
The latest National Crime Record Bureau (NCRB) Report on “Suicides & Accidental Deaths in India” speaks volumes about it. Indubitably, the report is frightening and heartrending, to say the least. The report, with its figures on suicide, underlines the unprecedented tragedy that is ruining India. Since the Modi government came to power, between 2014 -2020 as many as 9,58,275 people took their own lives. The rate of suicide in India has gone up by 16.24 per cent in 2020 since 2014.
The increase in suicides recorded in 2020 was the highest since 1982, when it increased by 11.15 per cent to 44,732 from 1981.
The suicide rate (number of suicides per lakh population) has also gone up from 10.4 per cent in 2019 to 11.3 per cent in 2020.
In 2014, the share of daily wage earners in all suicides was 12 per cent, which steadily went up to 17.8 per cent in 2015, 19.2 per cent in 2016, 22.1 per cent in 2017, 22.4 per cent in 2018 and 23.4 per cent in 2019.
In terms of absolute numbers, daily wage earners made up the largest share of total suicides at 37,666 in 2020.
There was an increase of 55 per cent in the number of students committing suicide, 58 per cent increase among the unemployed, and 139.37 per cent increase among farmers, labourers and daily wagers, as per the report.
Hapless citizens, grinded under extreme apathy and insensitivity of the government, are losing the last hope and taking the extreme step. Be it farmers, toiling labourer, daily wagers, housewives or unemployed educated youth, it is a saga of unending hopelessness all across.
Opportunities for the aspiring have been converted into cesspools of suicidal depression. And to top it all, Oxfam report ‘The Inequality Virus’ reveals that India’s 100 top billionaires have seen their fortunes increase by Rs 12,97,822 crore since March last year when the Covid-19 pandemic hit the country and this amount is enough to give 13.8 crore poorest Indians a cheque for Rs 94,045 each. “At the same time, the pandemic saw hundreds of millions of people lose their jobs and face destitution and hunger…. It is estimated that the total number of people living in poverty could have increased by between 200 million and 500 million,” the report added.
It is a bitter truth that each suicide is a personal tragedy that prematurely takes the life of an individual and has a continuing ripple effect, dramatically affecting the lives of families, friends and communities. Every year, more than 1,00,000 people commit suicide in India. There are various causes of suicides like professional/career problems, sense of isolation, abuse, violence, family problems, mental disorders, addiction to alcohol, financial loss, chronic pain, etc.
However, the spike in suicides by people from multiple backgrounds must be blamed on the current government’s policies.
Have a glance on the below chart at social category-wise numbered suicides between 2014 -2020.
Number of people who committed suicide from 2014 to 2020
In terms of the percentage share, the daily wage earners category is followed by ‘housewives’ (14.6 per cent), self-employed persons (11.3 per cent), farmers/cultivators (7 per cent) and retired persons (1 per cent). 13.4 per cent suicide victims were categorized as ‘others’.
Among other categories, the professional/salaried persons group registered an increase of 16.5 per cent in suicides – from 12,725 in 2019 to 14,825 in 2020 – and their share marginally went up from 9.1% to 9.7%. Furthermore, about 11,716 businesspersons died by suicide in 2020, a 29% jump from 2019 when 9,052 businesspersons ended their lives.
Arguably, farmers’ suicide is a longstanding endemic issue in the country. However, during the past seven years due to the crony-capitalist-friendly and anti-farmer policies of the Modi government 78,303 farmers committed suicide of which 35,122 were farm labourers. The government literally, it is alleged, forced the farmers into committing suicide.
During the same period, the per hectare cost input into agriculture increased by a whopping Rs 25,000. A recent report released by the Ministry of Statistics pegged the average daily income of farmers at a dismal Rs 26.67 even as the average loan on a farmer hovered at Rs 74,000 per farmer. The government itself accepted in its report that procurement from farmers was not being done at the minimum support price (MSP), and that they were being forced to sell their produce at 40% lesser price.
The much-hyped Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana, rather than helping the farmers, ended up benefitting private insurance companies to the tune of Rs 26,000 crore. To top it all, the three controversial Farm Laws aimed singularly at benefiting monopolistic corporate houses at the cost of the hapless farmers has proved to be the proverbial last nail.
Unesco report says the education sector in India is in doldrums. During this period, as many as 69,407 students committed suicide. The increase in terms of percentage (55% )was shocking. And, 86,851 individuals marred by perpetual unemployment ended their lives. In terms of percentage there was 58% increase in the number of unemployed committing suicide, comparing figures in 2014 and those in 2020. Official data of 2017-18 released by the Labour Ministry pegs the unemployment figures at a 45-year high.
Ill-conceived demonetisation and sudden lockdown have cascading effect on daily incomes as daily wagers were being pushed over the brink. Between 2014 and 2020, 1,93,795 daily wagers committed suicide. This indicates a horrendous 139.37% increase in the numbers when figures from 2014 and 2020 are compared. An OXFAM report reveals that the hundred richest Indians increased their wealth by Rs. 13 lakh crores, while 12 crore Indians lost their jobs. The mass exodus on foot triggered by the sudden lockdown and the inhuman beating, disinfection and quarantine conditions the informal workers were subjected to has turned into a humanitarian crisis.
Housewives bear the brunt as household budgets go for a toss. Consistent inflation, high prices and lack of employment opportunities have proved to be the main reasons behind severe domestic discord that leads housewives to opt for suicide. In this period, 1,52,127 housewives killed themselves. The situation today is marked by an unprecedented inflation where the cost of a cooking cylinder has crossed Rs. 1,000; cooking oil is selling above 200 per litre, while petrol and diesel have both crossed the Rs. 100 barrier. Fruit, vegetables, food grains and milk all are selling at unprecedented high prices.
In India, MSMEs account for about 99% of all enterprises, comprising 63 million MSMEs across various industries. In 2020, when Covid-19 halted trade and ravaged businesses across the country, they had taken their own lives.
According to NCRB, suicides among “tradesmen” increased by 50% – from 2,906 in 2019 to 4,356 in 2020 – the highest across categories of business community. As many as 4,226 “vendors” died by suicide last year, with the rest being accounted for in the category of “other businesses”.
Not only this the RBI in its report underlines that policies like demonetisation and flawed GST implementation severely affected the Small and Medium Enterprises – especially those of the unorganised sector, which in turn resulted in crores of Indians losing their jobs and livelihood.
The Parliamentary Standing Committee, chaired by Rajya Sabha MP K. Keshava Rao, said that the Union government did not conduct any study to ascertain the extent of losses suffered by MSMEs due to the nationwide lockdown imposed by the government.
Questioning the rising number of deaths by suicide in India, the main opposition party Congress asked where Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s promise of good days had vanished. Congress chief spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala said the Modi government is forcing people into “suicidal hopelessness”.
The NCRB report depicts the ‘Yamlok Sidhar’ picture of the government rather than that of ‘Lok Sudhar’, the Congress leader Surjewala told Radiance. However what’s even more tragic and shameful is that none of these diabolic figures seems to be affecting this insensitive government which continues to lust after power, he added.
The shocking NCRB data on suicides is a sad commentary on the state of affairs in the country, Jamaat-e- Islami Hind vice president Engineer Mohammad Salim said.
While flagging a plethora of international reports which say India continues to perform poorly on global indices of progress and inclusion, Engineer Salim said it should be an urgent matter of concern to the government as to why the people are taking such extreme steps.
After the Unesco report showing the precarious state of education in India came the 2021 Global Hunger Index wherein India ranked 101st out of 116 countries, far below its neighbours like Pakistan, Nepal and Bangladesh. Juxtaposing this data with the findings of the United Nations’ Food Waste Index Report 2021, this shows that 50 kilogrammes of food is wasted per person per year in India, revealing a picture of entrenched inequality and shocking indifference.
The government must take measures to address this issue which was born out of growing inequality in the country, Engineer Salim said. Jamaat-e-Islami Hind feels that the fight against inequality must be at the heart of economic rescue and recovery efforts now and if not addressed immediately, the crisis could worsen, he warns.
While attacking PM Modi, the Congress leader Surjewala said today in an attempt to mask its failed anti-people policies the government is nakedly resorting to perpetuating divisiveness, negativity, hopelessness among the people.
There is still no official word on the NCRB report from the government, which functions under the Union Home Ministry.