news Thursday, July 23, 2015 - 05:30
  The recently released ‘Accidental Deaths and Suicides in India Report 2014’ by National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) shows the abnormally high number of suicides in the southern states in India. Of the top ten states and union territories with the highest suicide rate in India, five – Puducherry, Telangana, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka – are from south India. The rate of suicide, which is the number of suicide cases per one lakh population, is the highest in Puducherry at 40.4. Telangana has a suicide rate of 26.5, Kerala stands at 23.9, Tamil Nadu at 23.4 and Karnataka at 17.8.     In terms of the number of suicides cases, Maharashtra tops the list with a shocking 16,307 suicides in 2014, with Tamil Nadu a close second. Three southern states - Tamil Nadu with 16,122 cases, Karnataka with 10,945 cases and Telangana with 9,623 cases – would be in the list of top 5 states with highest number of suicides in the country. The four states of Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Telangana alone account for 40.25% of all the suicide cases.     Further, southern urban centers also top the list in number of suicides. Chennai has the highest number of suicides in the country for a city, with 2,214 cases in 2014. Bengaluru stands at the second position with 1,906 cases. Delhi is a close third with 1,847 cases. So why is the number of suicides high particularly in the southern states? The data provided by NCRB also includes suicide cases divided by the cause for suicide, which includes reasons like family issues, professional reasons, financial difficulties and illnesses, among others. A close look at the data on what causes the increasing number of suicides brings to attention disturbing trends in the southern states. Compared to the bigger states up north like Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Rajasthan, West Bengal, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Haryana, Odisha and Punjab, the southern states, along with Maharashtra, have consistently higher number of suicides due to reasons like bankruptcy, family problems, illnesses and drug abuse. Most importantly, the number of suicides due to family reasons in significantly high in the southern states. In Tamil Nadu alone, there were 5577 suicides due to ‘other family reasons’, with 3149 such suicides in Kerala. There are a considerable number of suicides due to marriage failure, illicit affairs, love failure and illegitimate pregnancy as well.     Deaths due to illnesses are also consistently high across all the southern states, with Tamil Nadu having the highest number of suicides due to illnesses at 4514. In other southern states of AP, Telangana, Kerala and Karnataka, such suicides range between 1500 and 2300. Suicides due to drug abuse are the highest in Tamil Nadu and Kerala at 552 and 475 correspondingly.  On the contrary, Punjab, which is known to have a serious drug-abuse problem, only recorded 38 suicides due to drug abuse.         The data also shows that the house-wives who committed suicides in 2014 was higher in Bengaluru and Chennai. Indebtedness and bankruptcy have also been major reasons for suicides in the southern states and Maharashtra.  These southern states and Maharashtra, put together, account for 2099 suicide cases due to financial burden, whereas just 191 cases, in total, have been reported from the northern states of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Rajasthan, West Bengal, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Haryana, Odisha and Punjab.      Interestingly, suicide due ideological reasons or hero-worship is the highest in Tamil Nadu, with 23 such cases. Professor KS James of Institute for Social and Economic Change in Bengaluru says that the high number of suicides in the southern states could be attributed to the rapid changes in the family structures and the corresponding lag in the public health system. “The family structures in the south are changing faster than the northern states, and when that happens, there are more problems which arise. Unfortunately, the social welfare system has not developed enough to tackle these issues. This could be one of the reasons why suicide rates are higher in the south,” he says. This could also be evident from the fact that the number of suicides is higher in urban areas where family systems are changing rapidly. S Samuel Asir Raj, professor of sociology at Manonmaniam Sundaranar University says that in Tamil Nadu, the changing nature of kinship networks also adds to individual pressures. “The structures of emotional support are vanishing. The family and kinship networks are being demolished. This has happened increasingly after the pro-industry economic policies in the state in early 2000s, after which our lives have been further commodified. This lead to more familes breaking down and the support systems being demolished,” he says. With inputs from Ramanathan S  

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