More than 8,000 people died by suicide because of financial crises in 2020 when the first wave of COVID-19 and an abrupt lockdown left many jobless and hit incomes for months, the government said on Wednesday, in the first such acknowledgement of its kind.
"As many as 8,761 people committed suicide due to unemployment, bankruptcy or indebtedness in the year 2020," Minister of State of Home Affairs Nityanand Rai informed the Rajya Sabha.
The Home Ministry also said that in the three years between 2018 and 2020, as many as 25,251 lost their lives because of financial crises.
The data assumes significance given that in 2020, the government had told parliament that there was no record of deaths of migrant workers so the "question does not arise" of compensation.
Back then, the government's written response to a question on whether families of those who had lost their lives while trying to reach home in the coronavirus lockdown had been compensated had triggered anger and criticism from the opposition.
However, the ministry had admitted that more than 1 crore migrants made their way back to their home states from various corners of the country in the weeks following the sudden lockdown announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in March without giving them time to prepare.
The numbers also come on a day when the Facebook live video of a trader in Uttar Pradesh went viral, a day after he took poison along with his wife, blaming heavy losses and PM Modi's economic policies like the Goods and Services Tax or GST.
Following the disturbing incident just ahead of polls in the state, Rajiv Tomar, a shoe trader in Baghpat - one of the towns voting tomorrow - is critical but his wife died.
Along with the data on suicides, the government listed the steps being taken to counter growing mental disorders: "The government is implementing the National Mental Health Programme (NMHP) and is supporting the implementation of the District Mental Health Programme (DMHP)."
The programme aims to provide suicide prevention services, workplace stress management, life-skills training and counselling in schools and colleges, minister Rai added.
He also said that to deal with unemployment, the government has also launched several programmes to encourage job creation and social security benefits.