New Delhi: The report of the National Crime Record Bureau (NCRB) has shown that the overall suicide figure in the country increased by 10% to 1,53,052 in 2020, which is the highest ever. Moreover, the data has also shown that suicides in the business community are higher than among farmers. In an interview with The Sunday Guardian, N.K. Tripathi, former Director General (DG), NCRB, shared his views on the same. Excerpts:
Q: According to NCRB report, the overall suicide figure in the country has increased by 10% to 1,53,052 in 2020, which is the highest ever. What is your reaction?
A: The increase in suicides in 2020 as shown in the data of NCRB has been highest since 1982 which is deplorable and unfortunate. The main reasons behind the unfortunate jump in the suicide cases last year are employment crisis and depression. There is no denying that Covid-19 pandemic hit normal life badly resulting in problems of employment and livelihood.
Q: The NCRB report also says that compared to 2019, suicides among the business community in 2020 increased 29%. What is surprising is that the business community recorded more such deaths than farmers. What is your view on that?
A: The Covid-19 pandemic induced lockdown affected the livelihood and trade, particularly the small businesses badly. This problem coupled with depression led to the jump in number of suicides among the business community. What is worth paying attention to is the fact that there is around 50% increase in suicides by retail and small traders in 2020 compared to 2019. Similarly, there is an increase in deaths of vendors and hawkers by suicide as suggested by the NCRB report. Therefore, suicidal deaths among trading communities have been more than such deaths in the farming community. Obviously, the farmers and their farming activities have not been affected that much during the pandemic as there was no impact of lockdown or curfew on agriculture. So, the farmers continued to carry out their cultivation at that time as well. Hence, no significant rise in suicide cases in the farming community was reported in the NCRB data as was noticed in the business community.
Q: The data shows a total of 37,666 daily wage workers died by suicide in 2020, which accounts for one-fourth of total suicides. How do you see it?
A: Yes, the suicide cases involving the daily wagers were more than 37000 in 2020 which is very unfortunate. This happened because their livelihood got shut down during lockdown. They did not have any work for making both ends meet.
Q: What is also alarming in the NCRB report is that an average of 31 children died by suicide every day in India in 2020. Can this also be blamed on the coronavirus pandemic?
A: This causes a lot of concern that students and children have died by suicide in such a large number. That rate of suicide among students has gone up by 21% in 2020 compared to 2019 is worrisome. In fact, there were no physical classes going on as schools were shut down due to the pandemic. Only online classes were being run. Several students did not have access to internet facilities and were, therefore, unable to attend the online classes. Moreover, examinations for jobs remained suspended due to the pandemic, which was so frustrating for the students waiting for employment opportunities. As a result, suicide cases among students rose. So, we can say that the situation in 2020 was quite disappointing and frustrating. But we should be hopeful of a change for the better in 2021 as the pandemic situation is not that serious this year. Though the lockdown for a brief period was clamped this year also, it was not that stringent. Things started coming back on track early in 2021. With this in view, we can hope that the data for this year will be better.