Bhopal / Khandwa: Rajaram Chakre, 36, a mechanic by profession, died by suicide on July 8 at his home in Madhya Pradesh’s Khandwa district. He is one of at least 47 people who have ended their lives in Khandwa between June 1 and July 16, after the lockdown restrictions were eased, reveal police reports.
Chakre used to work in an automobile repair shop in Bhopal, where he lived with his three children and wife. However, as the countrywide lockdown was imposed on March 24, his owner sacked him before shutting the workshop. Left with no work, Rajaram somehow managed to return to his native village Lohari in Khandwa district, nearly 260 km away from the state capital, to save his family from starvation.
As the restrictions began easing with the first phase of Unlock from June 1, he started looking for a job in Khandwa as his savings had already dried up during the lockdown. He offered to work at a number of automobile shops, but they denied unemployment because there was no demand in the market.
His father, Himmat Chakre, 65, who was a farmer and owns two acres of land was also running out of ration. Rajaram desperately needed a job to feed his family. The pressure was mounting on him with each passing day, but all his efforts went in vain. At last, on July 8, he ended his life at his home.
Just like him, Babu Balai, 23, a resident of village Khutla Khurd of Khandwa district hanged himself on July 4. He was a daily-wage labourer and earned his bread in Indore. As the lockdown came into effect, he returned to his native village. But, failing to find a job even after a month of unlock he took the extreme step.
In the last 46 days, Khandwa has witnessed 47 deaths by suicide, 35 in the month of June alone. The reason being cited by police reports is lockdown and subsequent job loss.
Of them, 37 were men and 10 were women aged between 18 to 45. Majority of them either consumed pesticides, hanged themselves or jumped before a running train. A local psychologist claimed that the suicidal attempt cases are three-fold higher than the actual suicide report in the district.
It should be mentioned here that Khandwa had witnessed a surge in deaths due to suicide during the lockdown period too, as NewsClick has earlier reported.
Police reports claimed that out of 47, at least 38 people had ended their life due to unemployment, business failure and family disputes due to the financial crisis caused by the COVID-19 induced lockdown.
Most of the deceased were students, workers of local shops, daily-wage labourers, businessmen and competitive exams aspirants who were disheartened after seeing their future in a limbo post lockdown, the report reveals.
In all the incidents, the Khandwa Police have registered cases under Section 174 (Police to enquire and report on suicide, etc.) of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 and launched an investigation.
Also read: Bhopal Witnesses Sharp Increase in Suicides During Unlock 1, 57 Died in 34 Days
“We have noticed 20-25% jump in suicide cases in the district post lockdown,” said Khandwa Superintendent of Police Vivek Singh. The prime factor behind the suicide is financial crisis, job loss and business failure, he added.
According to the state police record, available on the Madhya Pradesh Police website, in 2018, Khandwa had witnessed 120 suicides. However, since the past couple of months the district has been seeing almost one suicide a day.
What Do Experts Say?
The deceased aged between 14 and 23 were mostly students; while those in 24-30 age group were competitive exam aspirants, and those between 30 and 45 years or above were either businessmen, skilled or unskilled workers or workers of local shops, claimed Dr. Sanjay Ingle, psychologist at Khandwa District Hospital. He added, “You can imagine the situation on June 15, the hospital received seven cases of suicidal attempt, however, few succumbed to the poison.”
Veteran Psychiatrist and former Head of the Department of Psychiatry, Hamidia Hospital, RN Sahu claimed that the lockdown and subsequent slowdown in the market has left a huge impact on the people.
“People are under huge stress triggered by COVID-19 lockdown. Majority of them are aged between 20-40. Many patients claimed that they are having sleepless nights, anxiety, suicidal thoughts and they are worried about their future,” he said.
Khandwa Police launches campaign to curb suicide
In a bid to curb the increasing suicide cases, the Khandwa Police has launched ‘Police Mitra’ campaign and issued a toll free and WhatsApp number on July 15 to help those needy people who are getting suicidal thoughts due to various reasons.
“After a media report, we have noticed that between June 1 to 20 this year, we have seen 27 suicides which was 19 in 2019. Hence, we decided to help people and launched a special campaign to curb suicide cases,” said Khandwa SP Vivek Singh.
The SP further said that a workshop had been organised where psychologists trained police officials on how to help people who have suicidal thoughts before launching the campaign.
“In last three-four days, we have received a lukewarm response,” SP said.
On being asked about the nature of help provided by the police to those who are crushed under the financial crisis, he replied, “Police can’t help directly, but we ensure that the person should be able avail all Centre as well as state government benefits such as ration card, MGNREGA employment card, bank account under Jan Dhan Yogna, Samarg card, etc.”
Besides, the police counsel such people with the help of psychiatrists and help in different ways, he added.
Also read: COVID-19 Lockdown: Over 300 Dead Due to Non-virus Causes, Govt Still Silent