New Delhi: India’s economic distress in the years, under the Narendra Modi-led Bharatiya Janata Party regime, seems to have had an impact on the mental well-being of the country’s vast working population, especially those in vulnerable, insecure and low-paying jobs.
This inference can be drawn from the latest data in the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) for 2018, which was released last week. As per the data, in 2018, more Indians who were unemployed committed suicide than those engaged in the farming sector –- a trend that was first observed in 2017.
As per the report, a total of 1,34,516 incidences of suicides were reported in 2018, out of which, 12,936 were by unemployed persons, constituting 9.6% of the total number of suicides. This is an increase from the previous year when 12,241 unemployed Indians took their lives, constituting 9.4% of the total suicides reported in that year.
In both the years, the number of farmers who killed themselves was lower. In 2018, the figure of farmer suicides stood 10,349 (7.7% of the total) while in 2017, it was 10,655 (8.2% of the total).
Shockingly enough, both these figures were outnumbered by daily wage earners in 2018, who constituted 22.4% of the total number of persons who killed themselves, with 30,127 suicides reported by such persons. This means that each day on average, 82 daily wage earners committed suicide in 2018. In 2017, the number of suicides committed by daily wage earners was 28,741 (22.1% of the total).
A look at the number of suicides committed by daily wage earners in India since 2014 – when the Modi government came to power – shows an upward trend. From 12% of the total number of suicides in 2014, the number of daily wagers killing themselves has increased sharply, with biggest rise recorded in 2015 as compared to the previous year.
Similarly, the number of unemployed persons committing suicides has also increased considerably over the past years – from over 7.5% of the total in 2014 to 9.6% in 2018.
‘Unemployment’ and ‘poverty’ as a reason behind suicides have seen no dip in the past. In 2018, a total of 2,741 suicides were reported (2% of the total) citing ‘unemployment’ as the reason, while 1,202 persons killed themselves because of the poverty (0.9%of the total), according to the NCRB report for 2018.
This trend of incidences of suicide being reported within different professional categories due to ‘unemployment’ and ‘poverty’, when seen together with the policies adopted by Modi government, hints at growing economic distress, whose brunt is getting unable to bear.
The unemployment rate is touching an unprecedented high under the present government, at 7.7% in December last year, according to Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE). Those who are employed are in no better position either. With minimum wages at abysmally low levels and many wage workers in the country still not protected by the minimum wage laws, earning a livelihood is getting tougher.
(Charts by Peeyush Sharma)