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58 Dead in 26 Mass Suicides in Madhya Pradesh During Pandemic

Kashif Kakvi |
The state had reported only one mass suicide in 2019.
women sucide

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Bhopal: A day after returning from Ujjain’s Mahakal Temple with his wife and two children, Indore resident Amit Yadav (35) hanged himself before poisoning them.

The police found the bodies of Yadav’s wife Tina (29), their three-year-old daughter Yana and 18-month-old son Divyansh and a two-page suicide note in their single-room rented house in Bhagirathpura locality, under the Banganga Police Station, on August 23 afternoon.

According to the police, Yadav, employed with a private telecom company, had borrowed Rs 3 lakh from five app-based loan companies at the onset of the pandemic. When he failed to repay the loan after two years, the companies started levying a weekly penalty of Rs 3,000 per week which he could not afford.

Deputy commissioner of police, Zone 3, Indore, Dharmendra Singh Bhadoriya informed the media that the suicide node is being verified. “But Yadav in his note claimed that he had taken a loan of Rs 3 lakh from five app-based companies which he had failed to pay,” he said. 

I can’t bear the loss of social reputation caused by the loan companies. Therefore, I am committing suicide. And I request the police to ensure that neither cops nor the loan companies harass my other family members, including relatives-in-law,” Yadav wrote in the suicide note.

Yadav, who was in love with Tina and married her five years ago, had only Rs 800 in his bank account. “There was a single entry to the house and the door was locked from inside. The lock was broken by the police to find the bodies,” Bhadoriya added. 

A week after the tragedy, seven employees of an Indore-based modular kitchen manufacturing company consumed poison after being allegedly sacked despite working there for years. Luckily, they survived due to timely hospitalisation.

These incidents are the latest in a series of mass suicides reported over the past few months in different parts of Madhya Pradesh. According to National Crime Record Bureau (NCRB), in a mass or family suicide, members of a family or a group jointly commit suicide.

PubMed, a free search engine accessing primarily the MEDLINE database of references, defines mass suicide as the “simultaneous suicide of all the members of a social group and is closely linked to the human dimension of existence although the social and cultural context may vary”.

As many as 168 suicides committed due to fear of loss in reputation were reported in the state were reported in 2021, as per the NCRB.

Dharmendra Gurjar (32), a milkman from Gohad block of Bhind district, strangled his two children before hanging himself along with wife in June. According to media reports, their 10-year-old girl survived while the rest, including their 12-year-old boy, died. Though the police couldn’t ascertain the exact reason for the mass suicide, locals claimed that the family was destitute.

In the last two years, 26 cases of mass suicide in which 58 people died were reported, the NCRB data shows. Eight cases of mass suicide were reported in 2021 and 18 in 2020, when COVID-19 struck the country. In 2019, only one mass suicide in which two people died was reported.

Besides, Madhya Pradesh reported the highest cases of suicide in the country after Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu with 14,965 cases, the NCRB data reveals.

Mass suicide is a new phenomenon in Madhya Pradesh after the onset of COVID-19,” a senior police officer requesting anonymity told Newsclick. “COVID-19 related distress is driving businessmen, students and the unemployed to take the extreme step. In cases of mass suicide, the police struggle to ascertain the reason for the deaths when a suicide note is not available or relatives don’t share details,” he said.

The bodies of Jitendra Valmiki (32), his wife, and their two young children—ages four and two—were discovered on July 22 in their rented home in the Maharajpura neighbourhood of Gwalior. An inquiry by the police led to the conclusion that Jitendra had hanged his son, poisoned his wife, and his daughter, age 2, before hanging himself. It was unable to determine the precise reason for the murder-suicide.

Makrand Vishwakarma, a daily wager employed with a government postgraduate college in Piparia block of Narmadapuram district, his wife Shashi and their college-bound daughter Nikita were found hanging from ceiling fans at their home in May. The family was in financial distress, according to the police.

Jeweller Jitendra Soni (35) poisoned his wife and two young sons and hanged himself in April. Luckily, his 10-year-old son survived. According to reports, a land dispute was causing stress to the family. In a tragic turn of events, Soni’s father Dhanraj Soni also committed suicide on July 26 leaving a note which said that loan firms were harassing him.

A family of five in Bhopal died after consuming poison in November 2021. Sanjeev Joshi, a mechanic, his wife, two teenage daughters and his 67-year-old mother committed suicide claiming in a note that two women from a loan firm were harassing them, according to reports.

Besides, individual cases have spiked in four major cities of Madhya Pradesh with 1,837 people committing suicide in 2021 as against 1,567 suicides in 2020. 

In capital Bhopal, 566 suicides were reported in 2021 compared to 416 cases in 2020. Indore recorded 737 suicides as against 644 in 2020 while Gwalior reported 320 cases as against 293 in the previous hear. Only Jabalpur reported a decline of 28 suicides compared to the previous year.

While drug abuse and alcohol addiction were the main reasons for the 1,634 suicides in the state in 2021, 9.8% of the people took the extreme step due to unemployment, poverty, failure in examinations, professional/career problems and bankruptcy or debt.

Dr Sanjay Ingle, a psychologist at Khandwa District Hospital, said suicides have spiked post-COVID-19. “Everyday, three to four suicides are reported with majority of them related to financial distress, job loss and debts. Victims either consume poison, hang themselves or jump before a train,” he told Newsclick over the phone.

Victims in the 14-23 age group are students, 24-30 are competitive exam aspirants while 30-40 or above are either businessmen or workers of local shops, Ingle added.

Ingle said that five to six people seek psychological counselling at the hospital daily. “They are either distressed after being sacked by shopkeepers or small businessmen or students who are distracted because they couldn’t study owing to COVID-19 in the last two years. Competitive exam aspirants are also undergoing mental agony.”

A total of 1,64,033 suicides were reported in the country in 2021, an increase of 7.2% compared to 2020, according to the NCRB. As many as 64.2% (1,05,242) of the victims had an annual income of less than Rs 1 lakh while 31.6% (51,812) belonged to the income bracket of between Rs 1 lakh and Rs 5 lakh. The majority of the victims belonged to the 18-45 age group.

Out of a total of 1,18,979 suicides committed by men, daily wagers were the maximum (37,751), followed by self-employed people (18,803) and unemployed people (11,724).

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