Unemployment in India has become a serious issue in the country since November 2016, when Modi government announced demonetization that immediately resulted in millions of the workforce jobless due to shutting down of millions of enterprises and scaling down of production by million others to even 25 per cent. Moreover, by early 2018, it reached 45 year high, and now highest in the five decades. What is most disturbing phenomenon is that the joblessness is increasingly driving people to suicides and the country witnessed the highest number of suicides among the unemployed in the year 2020, which happened to be the first year of the COVID-19 crisis.
We don’t have the further government records of suicide publicly available, but one can easily find news in the media regarding suicides due to joblessness, which is sounding the alarming bell louder than ever before. However, the question is if the alarming sound is reaching the deaf ear of the Modi government? Can the alarming sound be able to awake the government seemingly in deep sleep in spite of their awareness about such suicides which has been revealed in the Rajya Sabha a day before yesterday by none less than the Union Minister of State for Home?
The written reply of Nityanand Rai, the Union Minister of State for Home, has shocked the nation who disclosed citing the latest National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB data for the year 2020 that 3,548 people died by suicide due to unemployment in 2020. The total number of suicides that year was 1.53 lakh, up from 1.39 lakh in 2019.
It should not be out of place to mention here that 2020 was the year when our Prime Minister Narendra Modi had given four days time to the people of the country for beating the utensils or ringing the bell, or lighted the lamps, and several days for even switching off the lights to drive Corona away, but gave only four hours time after which the country was to be shut down without preparation, putting the whole economy to grinding halt. We had then witnessed the following chaos and the most infamous exodus of migrant workers to their homes on foot with their females and children, without food, and with no hope of finding any on the way due to lockdown, and many of them simply perished about whom the Union government said in the Parliament of India that they don’t have records of deaths when it came to giving compensation.
However, the Union government had full knowledge about suicides due to joblessness which they cannot deny. Presently, they are trying to shift blame for the suicides on the COVID-19 behind which they seem to be veiling their inaction and insensitivity towards the people committing suicides. But on whom they will shift the blame for increasing suicides before the pandemic struck the country?
NCRB data reveals that suicides due to unemployment has been increasing over the last few years, ever since Modi government took the reins of the country in 2014, the year when such suicides were 2,207. In 2015 it rose to 2,723 and suddenly dropped to 2,298 in 2016 which was still higher than the 2014 level. However, after 2016 it has always been rising. In 2017 total number of persons committed suicides due to unemployment rose to 2,404, which even increased to 2,741 in 2018 and 2,851 in 2019. By 2020, the five states most prone to suicides due to unemployment were Karnataka with 720 suicides, followed by Maharashtra with 625, Tamil Nadu with 336, Assam with 234, and Uttar Pradesh with 227.
Apart from unemployment as a cause of suicides, bankruptcy or indebtedness are the top associated causes. In his reply the Minister of State for Home said that between 2018 and 2020, 16,091 died by suicide due to bankruptcy or indebtedness. In 2018 much before the pandemic struck the country, a total of 4,970 people committed suicides due to bankruptcy and indebtedness while in 2019 it increased to 5,908. In 2020, a total of 5,213 committed suicides which was less than in the previous year, which proves that shifting blame of the COVID-19 is not totally correct. Modi government must find answer to it somewhere else, perhaps in their policy defects that has been increasing bankruptcy and indebtedness year after year even without pandemic apart from increasing joblessness and loss of livelihood leading to suicides.
We can take Maharashtra for example which has been recording highest number of farmers’ suicide each year. Even in the cases of suicides due to bankruptcy or indebtedness, the state topped with 1341 suicides. It was followed by Karnataka with 1,025, Telangana with 947, Andhra Pradesh with 782, and Tamil Nadu with 524 suicides.
In this backdrop Modi government needed multipronged strategy to deal with very high level of unemployment, highest in the past 50 years, as Rahul Gandhi has rightly pointed in the Lok Sabha during the Budget Session 2022. Even worse is that Budget 2022-23 has little provisions for the unemployed workforce in the country, though the Union Minister of State for Home had said in the parliament that government is running number of programmes aiming at employment generation and stress management for preventing suicides. However, increasing number of unemployment and suicides indicate that the programmes are failing miserably and Modi government must awake to the stark reality. (IPA Service)