Behind the high suicide rate among day laborers – The Leaflet

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The COVID epidemic has triggered a mental health crisis in low-income groups in the unorganized sector, as evidenced by the fact that there has been an increase of more than 166% in suicides among salaried day workers. between 2014 and 2021.

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Why is suicide data making headlines right now?

INDIA stunning Gross domestic product (GDP) growth rate of 13.5% could have been cause for a lot of celebration if it hadn’t coincided with the release of the National Crime Records Bureau (“NCRB”) data for 2021. ‘Crime in India’, the NCRB’s annual report for crime-related statistics, reported that the recording of violent crimes such as rape, kidnapping, atrocities against children, robbery and murder has increased to levels set before the pandemic. Yet the overall crime rate (per million people) has fallen from 487.8 in 2020 to 445.9 in 2021.

The most eye-catching dataset, however, came from the ‘Accidental Deaths and Suicides in India‘, which showed that the number of suicide-related deaths in India had reached an all-time high.

For the second consecutive year, the maximum number of suicide victims was daily employees, from 37,666 in 2020 to 42,004 last year. The data also revealed that the maximum increase in the suicide rate was seen among the “independents”, with an increase of 16.73%: from 17,332 in 2020 to 20,231 in 2021.

As steps are taken to recover from the overall impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is important to go beyond macroeconomic indicators like GDP and focus on the broader impact of the pandemic. on the society.

In all categories, the dominant reasons for suicide were related to personal life: family problems, illness, romantic relationships and marriage. However, for nearly five years, the increase in suicides has been dizzying, rising from 1,33,623 in 2015 to 1,64,033 in 2021: a whopping 22 percent increase.

As steps are taken to recover from the overall impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is important to go beyond macroeconomic indicators like GDP and focus on the broader impact of the pandemic. on the society. An important part of this process is confronting the reality that the COVID outbreak has unleashed a mental health crisis on low-income groups in the unorganized sector.

Read also : For a true global recovery, we must look beyond vaccinations: the COVID pandemic amid the orbits of globalization, law and development

What are the possible causes of this crisis?

Working conditions for workers in the unorganized sector had never been perfect, but things have gotten worse over the past decade, as evidenced by the fact that there have been more 166% increase suicide among daily workers between 2014 and 2021. It is therefore necessary to understand the possible causes that may have been aggravated during the COVID crisis that triggered this increase.

These causes can be broadly divided into two types: social and economic. The social crisis was born from the threat of the virus and the decisions taken to contain it. Economic causes are a by-product of these decisions.

What are the social factors?

  1. Virus: Few people still remember the kind of panic and fear that the early days of the COVID outbreak in 2020 caused. This unseen, indefinable disease targeting people indiscriminately while simultaneously forcing everyone inside, a sci-fi dystopia set in real life, was bound to induce some level of psychological issues. The worst was, despite attempts by several sections of the mainstream media and politicians, there was simply no definable “other” to blame for the misfortune suffered.
  2. Inequality: Despite leaders in all walks of life crying out that ‘we are in the same boat‘, people were not. A person’s experience during the pandemic was determined by the social and economic capital they had. While at one end people were watch reruns of their favorite shows on television, a greater mass of people were on the streets, desperately trying to get back walk home. Some had the luxury of access to the most expensive drugs; others could not even afford proper meals.
  3. Lockdown sabotages the future: While people working in the formal sector still enjoyed some financial security since their wages were more or less affected, people working in non-union jobs suffered the worst of the pandemic. Without income, most have been forced to take out loans or have had to deplete their savings. So when the corporate sector talked about using the crisis as an opportunity to increase wealth, for the people down there it meant giving up their future.

Read also : The Covid-19 pandemic has benefited India’s rich and impoverished middle class

What are the economic factors?

  1. Inflation and unemployment: After suffering major disruptions in the global supply chain as well as an economic collapse, there was a shortage of both goods and livelihood opportunities. Despite India’s situation relatively better than other economies, an inflation rate of about 6 percent broke the backs of many. The result is that an already battered low-income group loses even more and does not even have the possibility of rebuilding itself.
  2. Non-inclusive growth: India’s recovery from the pandemic has been defined as K-shaped. This means that some sectors and some people have not only managed to return to pre-pandemic wealth and income levels, but have also experienced increased prosperity. On the other hand, others continued to lose even more. India’s growth story seems to have left out much of its population, and this class is clearly feeling the burden.

What solutions should policy makers consider?

All these aggravated flaws ultimately lead to the induction of the same feeling: frustration. Lack of growth, missing opportunities, losing one’s future and seeing stagnation in life, all add up to create a desperate and frustrated individual who just wants a way out. While those with money have the option of approaching psychologists and receiving expensive therapy, for those without money, there is simply no mental health repair mechanism.

Lack of growth, missing opportunities, losing one’s future and seeing stagnation in life, all add up to create a desperate and frustrated individual who just wants a way out. While those with money have the option of approaching psychologists and receiving expensive therapy, for those without money, there is simply no mental health repair mechanism.

Therefore, for any realistic solution, these victim handicaps must be recognized. Thus, to face the current crisis, the approach must be based on recognition, reconstruction and prevention.

Read also : As the lockdown becomes one, let’s look at the gaps in our social welfare architecture

  1. Acknowledgement: In our political and mainstream discourse, socio-economic inequality (which increased in India due to pandemic) hardly gets the attention it deserves, being seen as a by-product of policies to live with. This was most telling during protests against controversial farm laws, as many commentators thought that even though farm bills were inequity, they were better for the economy. The Union government’s current attitude towards wealth disparity was also very well reflected when members of the ruling party chose to derogatorily call social welfare measures “rewadi Culture”. Inequality must be treated as a problem for there to be a solution.
  2. Reenactment: Until now, the policy measures taken for people in the unorganized sector have been linked to simple survival. For example, focusing on providing free ration food grains and vaccines. However, as we move towards economic recovery, it is important to meet people’s aspirations and create opportunities. Programs such as the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act can be used. Measures must be taken to ensure that people who have lost their livelihoods find similar jobs. One approach can be based on the use of data from the next census to specifically target communities that have lost the most during the pandemic. The immediate crisis to be faced is inflation; its control is absolutely crucial to halt the further erosion of the wealth of the lower socio-economic classes.
  3. Prevention: As the world becomes a more unstable place, the state must prepare and prepare for the possibility of better coping with similar situations. Thus, there must be strong safety nets for non-unionized workers. Something like unemployment insurance can be a method. It will also be necessary to ensure that there is infrastructure and standard operating procedures to deal with such situations, such as emergency food kits, travel arrangements and loan easing.

Read also : Loss of the moral universe in a neoliberal order

A frustrated working class is extremely dangerous for any country; mixed with high inequality, it is a recipe for disaster. Thus, it is important that the NCRB data is not viewed in isolation as that of crime or people with mental illness, but as a reflection of deep rooted issues facing our society.

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