Lucknow: The COVID-19 pandemic has not just wreaked havoc on the health infrastructure, the economy of the world, but has also started taking a toll on the mental health of the people. The lockdown imposed to contain the spread of the pandemic has also led to job losses, unemployment, and resultant economic stress for countless families and as a result, at least 10 people from India’s most populous state, Uttar Pradesh, have taken the extreme step and ended their lives.
Days after a private company—handling the government’s 181 women’s helpline initiative since 2016—handed a closure notice to its nearly 400 employees in Uttar Pradesh, one of the employees in Ambedkarnagar reportedly attempted suicide by consuming poison.
The woman, on June 17, was speaking to her senior colleague who she reportedly told that she was depressed.
The woman, requesting anonymity, told NewsClick, “I was associated with this service from 2016. Our salaries since June 2019 are pending and every day, we wait for the pending wages.”
“We worked hard during the COVID-19 lockdown, without money and resources. And while we were waiting for the pending salary, a discontinuation notice was served to us,” she said.
She added, “I was too depressed as there was no hope of revival of the scheme as no one from the government uttered a word on this issue.”
One of her colleagues said, “She was crying while talking to her senior colleague. Suddenly she cut the phone and did not respond afterward. The senior colleague called her family to approach her. They found her consuming the poisonous substance.”
NO REVIVAL FOR 181 HELPLINE?
The 181 call centre established in Lucknow reportedly received around 200-300 distress calls each day. This helpline was conceptualised and launched across India after the infamous Delhi gangrape case of 2012.
“There were around 350 employees posted across the state who have not received their salaries since June last year,” said Ashish Kumar, project head of 181 helpline.
According to sources, the company had submitted a file for the release of funds, but the government has neither approved the budget nor taken any call to discuss the fate of the scheme started back in 2016 for 11 districts. Later, the BJP government had made it functional across the state.
Manoj Kumar, director, Department Of Women, Child Development, and Social Security, said that the issue will be resolved soon as a proposal has been sent to the state Cabinet and promised that all the employees will get their dues as soon as the proposal is passed.
MORE CASES OF SUICIDE
A 37-year-old man allegedly poisoned his wife and three children before committing suicide by hanging himself at his house in Safedabad here due to financial problems, police said on June 5.
According to the police, the suicide note recovered from Vivek’s house read that he took this step as he could not give ‘sukh (happiness)’ to his family due to financial problems.
The police investigation, in this case, has been concluded and it was found that Vivek was under financial stress due to which he killed his wife and kids first, spent more than a day with their dead bodies, and hanged himself after consuming alcohol and slitting his wrist.
Vivek was a part-time property dealer and was also an owner of a garage, which was not doing well. The lockdown brought him under more debt.
Vishnu* (name changed) a former employee at the garage, said that Vivek was under financial pressure and was worried how his family would survive during the lockdown.
In another case from Kanpur district, a young man hanged himself after an altercation with his wife over the financial crisis in the family on June 22.
According to the police, the father of the deceased, Rajendra Verma said, "My son and his wife used to have clashes over financial crises in the family after my son Prince lost his job during the lockdown. Prince was working in a Lucknow-based pharmaceutical company. His wife also hanged herself after Prince died and their one-year-old son is with us now."
The police investigation is yet to reach any conclusion.
As per different media reports published in regional newspapers in Uttar Pradesh, at least 10 people have ended their lives due to financial crises after the lockdown was imposed.
Suicide was the leading cause for over 300 “non-coronavirus deaths” reported in India due to the distress triggered by the nationwide lockdown, revealed a new set of data compiled by a group of researchers.
The group, comprising public interest technologist Thejesh GN, activist Kanika Sharma and assistant professor of legal practice at Jindal Global School of Law Aman, said 338 deaths have occurred from March 19 till May 2 and they were related to the lockdown.
Sharad Patel, a social activist from Lucknow said, "The small surge which we are seeing in the suicide cases in India is also a result of isolation, communication gap in the society for which we, as a society, are responsible."
He said, "The government should have worked on mental health during this pandemic also because it was an extraordinary situation which no one had thought about. No one was prepared. In a situation like this, counselling is required; otherwise, people will succumb to financial and societal pressure."
According to Dr Krishna Dutt, a psychologist retired from the King George Medical University in Lucknow, "Suicide is an act which happens either due to bio-chemiclal changes in the body or due to the external reasons or pressure."