More Suicides Among the Poor in Tamil Nadu

State has 2nd highest number of suicides, and 86% of suicides were dropouts or had studied only up to class 12.

Published: 23rd July 2015 03:36 AM  |   Last Updated: 23rd July 2015 03:36 AM   |  A+A-


COIMBATORE:In Tamil Nadu, you are more likely to commit suicide if you earn less than Rs 1 lakh a year as also if you have only school education when compared with those who are better off and are better educated.

Suicides.jpgThe State had the second highest number of suicides, next only to Maharashtra. At 23.5 per 1,00,000 people per year, Tamil Nadu also has a high suicide rate, according to data from the National Crime Records Bureau on ‘Accidental Deaths and Suicides in India, 2014’. A total of 16,122 people across Tamil Nadu committed suicide in 2014, which is a slight fall - 2.9 percent - from the 16,601 suicides in 2013.

As much as 72.8 percent of the 2014 victims - 11,738 people - earned less than Rs 1 lakh a year. Those in the Rs 1-5 lakh income bracket accounted for 23.4 percent (3,770 people). However, the statistical breakdown fails to bring in any clarity on the tremendously large “bridge area” between the two income groups.

As much as 86 percent of those who committed suicide were school dropouts or had studied only up to Class 12. This is a striking contrast with those who hold diplomas, degrees or have completed professional courses. Those who have higher education account for only 8.2 percent of the total number of suicide cases.

Though such an extrapolation can be made, psychiatrists say the actual cause of the suicides may not be directly related to these factors. But they could have a contributory role, like suicide due to family problems arising out of poverty.

A statistical curve showing suicide rates increasing incrementally with higher levels of education till Class 8 can be observed. While 2,379 (14.76) of the suicides had no formal education, the number increased by five percent who for those with elementary education, and to 62 percent for those who had studied up to Class 8. The correlation then begins to decrease.

Coimbatore district, with 427 suicides in 2014, accounted for 2.65 percent of State total. The rate is almost 20 for a population of one lakh.

Suicides in 2014

Total in India - 1,31,666

Total in Tamil Nadu - 16,122

Tamil Nadu accounted for 12.2 percent of suicides in India, next only to Maharashtra

At 23.4 per lakh of the population, the suicide rate in Tamil Nadu was over twice the national average of 10.6

All figures for 2014 taken from NCRB records

No Direct Indicators to Peg Reasons for Suicides, Say Experts

The causes of suicide, not only in Tamil Nadu but all over South India, are complex, with a various factors together leading to the high prevalence here, say psychiatrists and sociologists.

A direct correlation to indicators like income, education and health to the suicide rate cannot be drawn, as the issues surrounding it are “extremely complex,” said Dr Lakshmi Vijayakumar, well-known psychiatrist and founder of Sneha, an organisation working to prevent suicides.

Every argument put forward to connect socioeconomic factors for Tamil Nadu’s high suicide rates can be countered with points like the lower rates in states like Bihar and Jammu and Kashmir. Many such states have levels of education and income, higher economic disparity, poorer law and order situation, etc.

Southern India has historically had higher suicide rates. Puducherry and Kerala, which also have high suicide rates, have worked effectively to bring down suicides, she said.

“In Tamil Nadu, people who have education and skill sets, but not a suitable job, are most at risk of committing suicide,” she said,

while pointing out that the State has one of the lowest number of farmer suicides in India.

The reason for North Indian states having comparatively lower rates of suicide might be that people in the South turn violence inward, ie, towards themselves.

A variety of historical reasons which moulded the Southerners’ cultural and ethical mores could be behind this, said Dr Lakshmi Vijayakumar.

However, according to Marxist theoretician S N Nagarajan, suicides, at the fundamental level, are a manifestation of economic disparity, deprivation and inequality. Economic pressures manifest themselves through social interactions and personal actions including suicide, he said.

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