Kollam: Even as Kollam city gained the dubious distinction as the suicide capital of the country by recording the highest suicide rate among the 52 major cities, the authorities remained blissfully unaware of the new status. As per the 2011 data compiled by the National Crime Records Bureau, the suicide rate in the city with a population of 11.1 lakh stood at 39.3 per cent, with 436 persons committing suicide in the year gone by.
The top officers in charge, including the district collector, city mayor and city police commissioner, when contacted by Express, seemed to be in the dark about the ‘record’ set by the city. Some expressed shock while others raised doubts about the figures.
“As per my knowledge the suicide rate in the district has been showing a downward trend. But I am not sure about the figures in the city,” said District Collector P G Thomas. Mayor Prasanna Earnest said that it was new information for her, quickly adding that the City Corporation would soon announce new projects aimed at the prevention of suicide.
Ironically, this derogatory tag coincides with the city’s recognition as a mega city. Kollam, along with 18 other cities, was included in the list of mega cities by the NCRB while bringing out the annual crime figures for 2011.
Kollam district’s brush with notoriety based on its rising suicide rate had prompted the Home Department to start a counselling centre, ‘Pratasya’, in 2010. A toll-free number was also launched along with the centre inaugurated by then Home Minister Kodiyeri Balakrishnan. However, it has remained a non-starter. “The centre could not be opened for want of qualified counsellors. We are trying to revive the centre,” City Police Commissioner Debesh Kumar Behera said.
However, this has not caused much surprise to a clutch of NGOs functioning for the prevention of suicide. “According to unofficial studies we have conducted, suicide has been on the rise in the city for the past five years. Kollam is most vulnerable to suicide owing to the poor economic stability of the working class in the city, who depend on the traditional but ailing sectors like cashew and coir. The increasing rates of alcoholism and divorce are other reasons,” said Fr Jose Puthenveedu of St Joseph’s Guidance Centre, an NGO working for the prevention of suicide.
But more Keralites opt to live
Kerala has a good reason to feel relieved. The state, which was once termed as the suicide capital of the country, has broken free of the image. Coming out of the hot seat, the state is now fifth in the pecking order of suicide incidence as per the latest report of the National Crime Records Bureau.
Kerala was topping the list for several years but it came down to the fourth position last year. Now, Puducherry has topped the list of states and union territories with the highest suicide rate, followed by Andaman & Nicobar Islands and Chhattisgarh. The fourth highest suicide rate was reported in Sikkim. As per the data, Kerala has a suicide rate of 25.3 percent. In Kerala, as many as 8,431 cases were reported in 2011, down from 8,586 in the previous year, a 1.8 percentage decline.