Mainstream, VOL LIII No 42, New Delhi, October 10, 2015
Female Suicides : A Challenge in the Current Indian Scenario
Saturday 10 October 2015
by Shahla Tabassum
The loss of human life in any form is not good for any society, as we know human beings are one of most important creatures of God and, more importantly, constitute vital human resources of the country. A report on Accidental Deaths and Suicides in India 2014, compiled by the National Crime Records Bureau and released recently, shows the grim picture of our society. The suicide defined in this report is deliberate termination of life and the essential ingredients of a suicide are: firstly, it should be an unnatural death, secondly, the desire to die should originate within the person commiting suicide, and thirdly, there should be a reason for ending the life. (National Crime Records Bureau, 2015)
Regarding the suicides in the country, every hour 15 people committed suicide during the year 2014, that is, a total of 1,31,666 people committed suicide; compared to the previous year 2013 (1,34,799), the 2014 number was slightly less. If we analyse the data for the last one decade from 2004 to 2014, it shows that, on an average, more than one lakh persons commit suicide every year in the country and there was an increase of 15.8 per cent in the number of suicides from 1,13,697 in 2004 to 1,31,666 in 2014. However, the number of suicides has been in the decline mode since the year 2011. The all-India rate of suicides was 10.6 per cent in 2014, whereas in 2013 it was 11 per cent. The maximum number of suicides was reported in the State of Maharashtra (16,307) followed by Tamil Nadu (16,122), West Bengal (14,310), Karnataka (10,945), Telangana (9623), the above five States accounting for 12.4 per cent, 12.2 per cent, 10.9 per cent, 8.3 per cent and 7.3 per cent of the total suicides, as reported during 2014, and also accounted for a total of 51.1 per cent suicides in the country. (See Table no. 1)
The two reasons for 39.7 per cent of the total suicides in the country are family problems (other than marriage-related problems) (21.7 per cent) and illness. (18.0 per cent) If we see the overall male: female ratio of suicides, it stands at 68:32; the gap is wide, but in case of boys and girls below the age of 18 years the gap is close, that is, 51:49, which is a precarious situation. The main causes of suicide among children below the age of 18 years are: firstly, family problems other than marriage-related issues, secondly, failure in examinations, and thirdly, illness. Interestingly, the rate of suicides in cities is higher (12.8 per cent) as compared to the national rate of suicides. A total of 20,621 suicides took place in cities during 2014 and among the major cities, Chennai with 2214; Bengaluru 1906; Delhi city 1847; and Mumbai 1196 etc. reported suicides. The two major reasons for suicides in cities were firstly, family problems (other than marriage-related issues) —5157 (25 per cent), and secondly, illness—3921 (19 per cent) out of the total of 20,621 suicide victims in the country in 2014.
For analysing the causes of suicide deaths among females, here we have divided the age into six categories. For females, the main causes for suicide are other family problems, which claimed a total of 9977 lives. Next comes the causes of illness which claimed 7663 female lives; thirdly marriage-related issues claimed 4411 lives. Table no. 2 clearly shows that females from 18 years and above till 60 years face a number of problems in their life, which in some cases lead to suicide by them, if they cannot overcome that particular problem. Thus, the number of suicide cases is more in the above mentioned age-group.
If we see the three important causes for the female suicides among the top five States, firstly in the category of Other Family Problems, the State of Tamil Nadu tops the list with 1913 suicides, followed by Maharashtra (1772), West Bengal (1018), Madhya Pradesh (805) and Kerala (764). In the case of Union Territories there are only two: firstly, Puducherry with 161 and secondly, Delhi 110 female suicides. Among the top five cities, Bengaluru stands at the top with 232 female suicides, next come Mumbai (200), Chennai (193), Bhopal (121) and lastly the city of Delhi 99. (See table no. 3)
Secondly, in the category of illness, again the State of Tamil Nadu got the first position with 1479 female suicides followed by Maharashtra (1109), Karnataka (781), Telangana (763) and Kerala (578). Surprisingly, among the top five States, except Maharashtra, all others are southern States. Among the Union Territories, Delhi recorded 56 female suicides and Andaman and Nicobar Islands 13. In case of the top five cities, Chennai stands first with 204 female suicides, followed by Bengaluru (107), Mumbai (80), Bhopal (70) and lastly, the city of Delhi (53).
Thirdly, in the category of marriage-related issues, the number of females commiting suicide in the top five States are: West Bengal with 906, Madhya Pradesh (779), Uttar Pradesh (527), Maharashtra (442) and Odisha (269). Here, we don’t find any State from southern India in the top rankings on the above mentioned two major causes of female suicides. In Union Territories, Delhi got the top ranking with 149 female suicides. Among the top five cities, Delhi city has won the first position with 136 female suicides, followed by Bhopal (125), Mumbai (54), Gwalior (32), and Jabalpur (30) respectively. (See Table no. 3)
Overall, if we see the total female suicides by counting all the three major causes (as mentioned above), then among the States, the top five are Tamil Nadu with 3392, Maha-rashtra (3323), West Bengal (1924), Madhya Pradesh (1584) and Kerala (1342). Among the top five States, only the State of Maharashtra has female suicides due to all the three major causes, which is not the case with other top ranking States. Among the Union Territories, the highest number of female suicides took place in Delhi (315) followed by Puducherry (163). The Union Territory of Delhi has female suicides stemming from all the three major causes as mentioned above. In the case of the top five cities, Chennai has the highest number of female suicides with 397 followed by Bengaluru (339), Mumbai (334), Bhopal (316) and Delhi city (288). So the three important metro cities (Chennai; Mumbai and Bengaluru) find their place in the top three positions. Interestingly, the city of Bhopal has the fourth position ahead of Delhi city. (See Table no. 3)
The top 10 States accounting for female suicides (including all the causes) in the country, in the year 2014 were: West Bengal (5424); Tamil Nadu (5155); Maharashtra (4476); Madhya Pradesh (3698); Karnataka (3259); Telangana (2954); Gujarat (2622); Kerala (2034); Chhattisgarh (1920) and Andhra Pradesh (1880). Interestingly, out of the top 10 States, five States are from South India. Among the Union Territories (UTs), Delhi has the highest number of suicides (671); next comes Puducherry with 152; Andaman and Nicobar Islands (40); Chanidgarh (39); and Dadra and Nagar Haveli (31). As far as the top 10 cities are concerned, the top two are from the southern cities of Bengaluru recording 646 and Chennai 611 suicides among females. Here the shocking revelation is that female suicides in cities like Bhopal are 434, Pune (244), Surat (226) and Indore (178). (See Table no. 4)
Even though we have a law to stop people from committing suicides, we are not getting fruitful results in this regard. Because the reasons or causes which lead to suicide by the people vary individually and sometimes it is also difficult to solve individual problems in a big country like India. The best solution will be to provide some kind of counselling to the people. But, here also, our nation is facing a big challenge in terms of the resources we have. For example, on the one hand, 50 per cent of the population are suffering from mental illnesses (both major and minor); and on the other hand, in the whole country, we have only 5000 psychiatrists and 2500 psychologists and even fewer psychiatric social workers. (Sandhya, 2015) Thus, this problem needs to be taken into serious consideration by all the stakeholders in society; otherwise we are losing precious lives every day, which is also an important human resource of the state.
Side by side some questions need to be answered by all the stakeholders in society: 1) Why are more people committing suicide in metro cities like Chennai, Bengaluru, Delhi? 2) Why are more people from the southern States committing suicide rather than their northern counterparts?
1. Natonal Crime Records Bureau (2015), “Report on Accidental Deaths and Suicides in India 2014”, Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India, p. vi.
2. Ravishankar, Sandhya (2015), ‘Why more people have been committing suicide in Chennai than in any other metro for the past four years‘, The Economic Times, August 2. Accessed on August 6, 2015 http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/magazines/panache/why-more-people-have-been-committing-suicide-in-chennai-than-in-any-other-metro-for-the-past-four-years/articleshow/48310786.cms.