Why is the suicide rate in Thar increasing at such an alarming rate?

Apart from updates on deaths of infants from malnutrition, and the absence of basic health facilities, the country’s mineral-rich region is mostly ignored by mainstream media and government.

The Thar desert region in Sindh suffers from every developmental hurdle you can name, but the recent jump in suicides in the area is yet another test for its inhabitants.

The local officials have reported a terrifying spike in the number of suicides from the Tharparkar district, an impoverished Hindu-majority region bordering India.

Recently, two brothers committed suicide in the district on the 30th of May, only months after their elder brother and mother had reportedly killed themselves. This, however, is not a new thing.

According to statistics compiled by the local police, at least 250 people committed suicide and ended their lives in 2019. The same statistics show that 198 people died of suicide in the region in 2018, while 97 killed themselves in 2017. Police and rights activists believe that the rise in suicides indicates a trend that had intensified since 2012 when only 24 people took their lives.

“Increase in the number of suicides committed by women, men, young girls, children and even by couples jointly is alarming,” said Justice Majida Razvi, chairperson of Sindh Human Rights Commission, after visiting Thar last year.

Discrimination from the higher-caste Hindus  – a contributing factor?

However, a few groups of people are more likely to commit suicide than others. Rakesh Bheel, a minority rights activist from Tharparkar, says that double discrimination, from Muslims and higher-caste Hindus, helps compound the conditions that lead to suicides in the region.

Suicides among the Kolhi Hindu community of the Tharparkar have increased at an alarming rise over the past year, as 70%-80% of those who killed themselves in this period belong to this community.

In light of this, PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto has asked the Sindh CM’s special assistant, Veerji Kolhi, to investigate the origins of increasing suicides among a specific caste of an ethnic minority community.

The Kolhis is one of the most disadvantaged groups in the Tharparkar region. Poverty, lack of resources, and unemployment are reportedly the leading causes of the suicides among this community.

Debriefing on prevention of suicides in Mithi, Thar last year.— Dawn

However, socio-economic conditions of those from the majority communities, are not better either. Not too long ago, two young men and a young woman committed suicide in other parts of Sindh.

The situation can be solved by expanding job opportunities with locally available resources. The residents of Thar demand that if only they are adequately supplied basic necessities of life, the suicide rates will halt. “If so, the ratio will decrease,” they added. This needs political will.

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