Wednesday, August 9, 2000,
Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Disturbing social trends-I
In-laws behind 80 p.c. of suicides
By Prabhjot Singh
Tribune News Service

CHANDIGARH, Aug 8 — Harassment by in-laws for various reasons, including insufficient dowry, accounts for 80 per cent of suicides by women in Punjab, where the incidence of ending one’s own life has been alarmingly on the rise in the recent past.

In the first six months of the current calendar year, 77 cases of suicide have been reported from various parts of the state. Women alone account for two-thirds of these cases. Though doctors hold that changing lifestyles, stress both at the place of work and at home and financial frustrations are the main reasons for the high incidence of suicide in Punjab, they could not explain why more women than men take this drastic step.

Another disturbing phenomenon has been the increasing tendency among policemen to end their lives. Against a total of 30 suicide cases in the past five years, seven took place during the first six months of the current year — an average of a little more than one a month.

In the case of policemen, domestic problems have been cited as the main reason for this drastic measure. Of the seven cases, two shot themselves, one threw himself in a canal and another before a train while two others took poison and the seventh hanged himself. Only one of them was suffering from a chronic disease.

Interestingly, those who shot themselves were on security duty, one with the Chairman of the Punjab Mandi Board and the other with the night service of Punjab Roadways.

The incidence of suicide is the highest in Doaba. Jalandhar tops the list with 11 suicides in six months followed by Hoshiarpur (seven) and Nawanshahr (five). In Ferozepore, nine suicide cases have been reported between January 1 and June 30 this year. Compared to it the Majha zone is less affected by this problem as Batala (six), Amritsar (four), Tarn Taran (two) and Gurdaspur (three) have much fewer cases. In the Malwa belt, where in the recent past several cases were reported of farmers in the debt trap committing suicide, things appear to be on the quieter side. Bathinda, Patiala and Sangrur have four cases each.

Two suicides every five days in a progressive and prosperous state like Punjab is alarmingly high, says a psychiatrist working in a government hospital. The problem needs to be tackled with the necessary preventive measures.

A close study of suicide cases makes interesting revelations. In one case, a young man ended his life following “harassment by his in-laws”. In yet another case, a young man burnt himself to death after failure in a love affair.

These stray cases apart, one of the major reasons for suicide among men in the state has been “harassment by other men at the workplace”. Poison was the most common method used in these cases followed by burning. Only in two cases, life was ended by jumping before a train and in a solitary case by jumping into a canal. In one case, a woman jumped into a well.

Most of the victims were in the 18-40 age group.

A cross-section of police officials interviewed by The Tribune maintains that the incidence of suicide in Punjab during the “terrorism days” was far less than what it is now. If one looks at figures of the past, the number of suicides in Punjab ranged between 40 and 80 a year at the maximum.

“But this time it has almost touched 80 in the first six months. April, for example, was the worst month during which 25 suicides were reported. In March, May and June, there have been 14 cases each. January and February this year have been normal with four and six cases,” says a DIG.

The Director-General of Police, Punjab, Mr Sarabjit Singh, feels concerned at the increasing incidence of suicide among policemen. “I have asked the psychiatrist and psychologist at Police Training College, Phillaur, to visit all Police Lines and address jawans to solve their problems.

“One of the reasons for the increasing incidence may be the dimnishing chances of promotion in the force. For the past some years, we did not have any promotion course for constables and Head Constables,” he adds.

Table 1
Suicides in Punjab (monthwise)

January                        4
February                       6
March                          14
April                             25
May                             14
June                            14

Table 2
Suicides in Punjab (districtwise)

Batala                             6
Hoshiarpur                       7
Nawan Shahr                    5
Tarn Taran                       2 
Khanna                            2
Gurdaspur                        3
Ludhiana                          5
Jalandhar                         11
Amritsar                           4
Muktsar                            1
Mansa                              1
Ropar                               5
Patiala                              4
Ferozepore                        9
Sangrur                             4
Kapurthala                         2
Bathinda                            4
Jagraon                             1
Majitha                              2

Total                                      77

Table 3
Causes of suicide

Dowry cases\harassment of women          53
Policemen                                            7
Harassment (men)                                 10
Family disputes/relationships                    7

Table 4
Suicide by policemen

1. Constable Kulwinder Singh        February 7       Shot himself               Domestic
2. Constable Balwinder Singh        March 14         Jumped into canal       Domestic
3. HC Gurmit Singh                      April9/10         Took poison          Chronic illness
4. Constable Balkar Singh             April9/10          By hanging                Domestic
5. Constable Satnam Singh           April 16           Took poison               Domestic
6. Constable Bhupinder Singh        April 22            Run over by train       Domestic
7. Constable Nidhan Singh            June 7             Shot himself              Not known


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