Epidemic of Suicides

THERE have been many cases of suicides and suicide attempts in Kashmir over the last few weeks. One of them, Shoaib Bashir, the son of a school teacher,, made a video before the suicide, blamed for his extreme step the denial of salary to his father Bashir Ahmad Mir over the past two and a half years. Bashir was apparently pushed over the edge by his failure to pay the fees for his Masters course in psychology. His father Mir’s salary had been witheld since March 2019 by the authorities who cited an adverse police verification report. It has now turned out that the said report has nothing adverse against Mir. The report has concluded that “he is presently silent and busy with his job”.

The suicides have caused deep unease among the people in the Valley. The Jammu and Kashmir High Court Bar Association (JKHBA) has expressed concern about the disturbing trend. The Association has appealed to the people in general and charity institutions in particular to take care of the distressed families.

The major cause of suicide attempts is financial stress in the families caused by the turmoil of the last two years and also by the successive lockdowns, two of them the result of the Covid-19 pandemic. This has wrought havoc with the economy, leaving thousands of people jobless or with a drastically reduced income. This, in turn, has driven people to desperation, and caused psychological problems.

Though the local economy had started looking up during the winter with tourist arrivals picking up between November to March, and the markets were re-opening to a growing consumer rush, the virulent second Covid-19 nipped it in the bud. And with a fresh lockdown being slapped since April, the situation has gone downhill. A strict curfew has once again disrupted everything and battered the economy. And once again a large number of people have lost jobs. The worst victims of the pandemic and the lockdown include the lowly workers associated with tourism. Or for that matter the drivers and conductors of the passenger vehicles. They have been hit the hardest over the last two years, so much so that some of them have resorted to begging to feed their families.

With the fresh infections going down, the government is taking steps to reopen the economy. Already, the economy is being partially reopened in the districts categorized as orange and green. As already urged in this space, the administration should do everything to ease the terrible plight of the poorest section of the society while deciding the future course of action. The lockdown should be relaxed in a way that paves the way for the daily wage workers to earn their livelihood. Any further delay in doing so will worsen their plight and could lead to more suicides.

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