Chhattisgarh holds 4th rank in suicides

Avdhesh Mallick

Once a valley of peace tribal dominated Chhattisgarh is passing through a phase of enormous distress where suicidal tendencies are shooting up. Moreover, the impression is not unfounded.  The data available in public domain indicates around 25 people attempt suicide every day in the state. As per National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) recent publications, suicide rate in Chhattisgarh has declined by 5.2%. In 2015 it was around 27.7 % but in 2017 it slumped to 22.5%. Meanwhile, national average suicide rate is 9.9%. Though the reduction is good but still it presents gloomy picture of the state.

Unfortunately, tribal people who are the major inhabitants of state are on the most peril.  

Tribal social activists Ganga Bhai who has been working with tribal people in northern Chhattisgarh says, after the formation of state some Tribal folks landed in powerful jobs like ministers, administrative officers and others but the pace of development in tribal region has not happened as per expectations. Tribal problems still remain unresolved. However, the influx of mining companies has increased the rate of displacement and land grab, traditional jobs are declining. Hence, it added more misery in the lives of indigenous tribes and swelling of stress is inevitable.   

Researchers found unbearable mental stress is one of the major triggering factors behind the increasing suicide cases.

Unfortunately, as per government of India records, prevalence rate of mental disorders in Chhattisgarh including depression is 11.8 percent. Most affected age group is 30-49 years old, and a vast majority of these people are semi-literate.  These all present a horrifying picture of Chhattisgarh which was never even imagined twenty years ago.

Mental stress pushing tribal population towards suicide

The objective of creation of Chhattisgarh was to give impetus to the development and scale up happiness quotient. Unfortunately, poor implementation of welfare schemes seems to have compromised the very objective. The benefits of development haven’t percolated to the rural masses as per expectations.

The practicing psychiatrists and counselors warn that the problem is worsening day-by-day, requires immediate intervention. They opined there is huge mismatch between escalating aspirations and capacity building methods.

The influx of mining-based industries, expansion of transport facilities, communication networks, lowering prices of physical luxuries has fuelled modernization and incited individualism, greed, jealousy, sleaziness, adultery and immoral practices. It has attacked the very foundation of tribal societies and has devastating impact on their social order and systems.

Hand in glove land mafia, corporate and corrupt official-politician nexus illegally acquired thousands of acres of tribal lands in Surguja, Raigarh, Korba and other tribal dominated areas through forgery resulting mass exodus of Tribal populace. As per government data between year 2000 and 2008, 1,135 acres of forest land stretching between Mahasamund and Saraipali regions were transferred to the names of non-tribal families.

As the indigenous societies are not well equipped to face these mammoth challenges, deceit and conspiracies. There is a feeling of fear and insecurity among tribal folks. They feel trapped in the era of ‘communication explosion’.

The increased outreach of Mobile phones, TV sets and social media in tribal households have eased their lives. Meanwhile, on the other it has increased their vulnerability. Majority of sops are made to provoke consumerism and individualism and the concept of tribal societies are just opposite of it. Tribals believe in common goal, common goods and services. Therefore, a majority of tribal folks are running into stress.

Secondly, the poor quality of education and obsolete professional training has lessened their chances of selection in jobs. It is testing the patience of tribal youth. Loss making agriculture sector has added complexities to the situation. These conditions are fueling depression, anxiety and other mental disorders among the tribals.

Earlier tribal societies have very simple and nature friendly lifestyle and the cases of mental stress were miniscule in numbers. Two decades ago, people never thought these happy societies have to pass through such a critical phase in the name of development.

But the pace of development and its incursions have toll on their lives and culture. Vulnerability in tribal societies has been observed increased.

However, these vulnerabilities are not limited up to indigenous societies only rather it has implications on all sorts of societies either they are living in urban, semi urban or rural areas.

(Writer is a senior journalist based in Raipur Chhattisgarh and views expressed here are his own)

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