It is not just farmers, but small businessmen, especially traders, have been under a lot of financial stress combined with pressures from loan sharks and families, and the pandemic seems to have made the situation even more unbearable. This has led many small businessmen to take the extreme step of taking their own lives and their suicides are startingly higher in number than even farmers in the country in 2020.
Latest data from National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) showed that suicides among tradesmen shot up by 50 per cent compared to 2019, while the larger business community too recorded more such deaths than farmers, said media reports.
NCRB data revealed that as many as 11,716 businessmen died by suicide in 2020, compared to 10,677 farmers in the same year. Out of these 11,000 deaths, the highest number of 4,356 were that of tradesmen, 4,226 were of vendors, and the remaining 2,429 belonged to the category of ‘other businesses’. The NCRB usually divides the business community into these three categories while recording suicides, said an Indian Express report.
Suicides among the business community in 2020 increased 29 per cent as compared to 2019. But the significant jump in deaths was seen among tradespeople, for example, from 2,906 in 2019, the number increased to 4,356 in 2020, which was a marked 49.9 per cent jump.
The overall suicide figure in the country, meanwhile, has increased by 10 per cent to 1,53,052, the highest ever.
Commenting on the high suicide figures of tradesmen in 2020, Johnson Thomas, director of a Mumbai-based mental health NGO, AASRA, which operates a 24-hour helpline to cater to suicidal and emotionally distressed individuals, said many small traders were pushed to the wall during the pandemic because avenues to make any income was completely cut off. Their businesses were closed and there was no money coming in. They were unable to pay their debts and being breadwinners, the family too expected them to bring in the monthly income.
Thomas, who was talking to The Federal, who said he was basing his statements on the calls made to them on their helpline, pointed out that all these pressures coupled with creditors harassing them and maligning them online may have driven many small businessmen over the edge. Moreover, Thomas added that many of these small traders became victims of online scams through short term loan apps that had sprung up during the pandemic.
“When these small businessmen could not pay back the loans, the app creditors would harass them by humiliating them online or sending messages to all their contacts to alienate them. These suicides have been purely due to poor financials. We also saw many small restaurant owners too getting badly affected in the pandemic buckling under having to pay huge amounts of rents and taxes,” he pointed out.
There was no help forthcoming from the government either and all of this probably made them fall into a depression, said Thomas.
Anil Bhardwaj, Secretary General of the Federation of Indian Micro Small and Medium Enterprises meanwhile told IE that in the COVID year, small business has been impacted very badly. “Till now it was believed that more farmers commit suicide due to crop failure and mounting loans. But this shows that businessmen have been under no less stress and the pandemic has made it worse,” he said.
AASRA: 9820466726; Email: firstname.lastname@example.org, Timings: 24×7
FORTIS Mental health: 8376804102, Timings: 24×7; All days