Long Shadow Of Covid

THE union government on Wednesday informed the Rajya Sabha that more than 25,000 Indians have died by suicide due to either unemployment or indebtedness between 2018 and 2020. The information was provided in a written reply by Minister of State (Home) Nityanand Rai during a discussion of the issue of unemployment. The minister said that as many as 9,140 people died by suicide due to unemployment and 16,091 people due to bankruptcy or indebtedness during the time period. Rai added that the government figures were based on data provided by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB). Based on the data, suicides among unemployed people reached 3,548 - the highest such number -  in the pandemic year of 2020, while 2,741 ended their lives due to unemployment in 2018, and 2,851 in 2019.

This is a troubling revelation. This is for the first time that the government has made these details public. Thousands of hapless and jobless laborers in New Delhi and the other cities had chosen to walk hundreds of kilometres to their homes when the union government suddenly imposed lockdown in April 2020  following the spike in Covid infections. Many died on the way to their homes. But the government figure has now brought out the horrifying scale of the Covid fallout on the people living at the bottom of the pyramid.

In Kashmir too, the pandemic followed by a six month long security and communication blockade in the wake of the revocation of Article 370 has left behind immense suffering. The economy has been battered. For over two years,  the businesses could only open for a brief duration before being shut again, either because of political turmoil or due to Covid-19.  According to the Valley's business bodies, the lockdowns led to a loss of over Rs 50,000 crore in 2020. As a result,  the economy has grievously suffered. In  Kashmir, the impact has been most severe. Already lakhs of people are jobless or have had their incomes slashed.

The tourism, one of the mainstays of the Kashmir economy, is one of the sectors that has been hit the hardest. There is a large section of people who have largely been without employment over the last two years. Their savings have already been depleted. For example, the transporters: the drivers and conductors have now very little to survive on. This includes also the people associated with tourism. In 2021, many cases of suicides and suicide attempts took place as a result. The major cause of suicide attempts was 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. Here’s hoping that with the abating of the pandemic, the economic situation would return to normal, both in the country as well as in Kashmir. This alone will prevent further misery.

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