Suicides: Side effects of Corona
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Covid-19 has showing decreasing and increasing trends in fluctuating manner, but one side effect that has remained constant and that is increasing number of suicides due to financial burden. Many people have lost jobs due to Corona lockdown but this is not the reason for suicide. The most disastrous effect of Corona has been seen in case of small vendors and sometimes big traders also who have finished their lives due to inability to pay the loans. Kerala is the most badly affected state due to Corona virus and the large number of suicides that have taken place in the state is a testimony to this. In recent days, the number of Covid cases has been rapidly increasing in the state which was praised for its Covid preventive measures. Now, all the situation has become upside down. The left journalists always try to cover up Kerala’s massive blunders by Pinarai Vijayan government to control the pandemic. Its relaxations in last month has given rise to spurt in Covid cases. But that is a different subject. The real irony is that suicide spree in Kerala which has brought a dark side of Covid virus. Over the last three months, as the pandemic tightened its grip on the health sector and the local economy, there has been a string of suicides, reflecting the deep unrest in the low and middle-income stratas of society. Local media reports have pegged the numbers as high as 30 in the last three months. This is real frightening data and actual figure may be higher than this. The reasons are not new or very unexpected. The general stagnation in the local economy, decline in wages and people’s purchasing power, soaring unemployment, crippling debt and the continuing restrictions on economic activity at the local level are counted as some of the reasons pushing people to take the extreme step. It doesn’t help that Kerala, once hailed as a successful model in tackling the pandemic, has the highest number of persons under treatment for Covid-19 in India currently and continues to contribute the largest share to the national caseload. On August 25, the state reported over 31,000 cases in a sign of a surge post Onam festivities — escalating fears both among health experts as well as the trading community. Kerala is a tourist state and its tourism industry is at extreme low in terms of business now, triggering major resorts and hotels have forcefully closed. It has affected large number of work force and leading to increase in unemployment. For Kerala’s LDF government headed by Pinarayi Vijayan, the challenge is onerous. After getting a rap on the knuckles by the Supreme Court in July for relaxing restrictions for Bakrid, it cannot be seen as defying the court’s directions again when it comes to keeping the pandemic in check. At the same time, livelihoods are also at stake and if the string of suicides is any clue, it’s that traders and daily-wagers would not condone another round of lockdowns and restrictions. Not only Kerala, but entire India is under the same dilemma: whether to save lives or livelihoods and the answer nobody knows which is exact. It is interesting to note that in case of Kerala, one of the sectors decimated by the pandemic and which has lost the most number of people to suicide (eight so far) is the light and sound business. Since March last year, the pandemic restrictions have dropped the curtains on big outdoor events in the state such as political rallies, business conventions, conferences, temple and church festivals and marriages, wiping out work for those renting out costly light and sound equipment, pandal decorators and announcers. People have no choice but to end their lives. But the government can give relief to them by providing petrol and diesel for private taxis in subsidized rates. The government also can pay a part of rent to the landlord and the owner can survive with his enterprise with 100 to 200 employees. Such measures are extremely necessary to prevent people from committing suicide because government can not sit idly and see people die due to lack of livelihood.