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Suicides in Thar

February 14, 2013


THAR Desert is an arid area that lacks many facilities. Tharparkar has the lowest Human Development Index out of all districts in Sindh. Ironically, the crime rate is low.

The 22,000-sq-km stretch of the Thar Desert sits in one of Pakistan’s remotest corners, outside the Indus River basin – which is the economic backbone of the country.

With no river water to supplement rainfall, the welfare of the crops and herds that make up the Tharis’ major source of income hangs on just 50 to 300 millimetres of precipitation a year. More than 1.5 million people live in the 2,300 villages that dot Thar’s four Taluka or administrative units, namely Nagarparkar, Mithi, Diplo and Chachro. However, all the regions still need more hospitals, schools and even basic health units.

A study carried out by an NGO, the Association for Water Applied Renewable Energy AWARE, working in Thar, has revealed that 24 people committed suicide in 2011 in Tharparker district alone. These incidents might be the tip of the iceberg, as most cases of suicides are not reported at all and are hushed up to avoid family stigma or escape arrest from the law, which hardly catches and punishes culprits.

Out of the total number of 24 suicides, 14 were committed by women. Besides, out of the total number of suicides, 13 belonged to a caste like the Bheels, Menghwars and Kolhis.

The major reasons for committing suicides among men are intra-family disputes, joblessness, mental disorder and protracted illness. Women are the ultimate sufferers in case their husbands commit suicide because they are blamed indirectly by society for the death of the male.

Other reasons for committing suicide include child and forced marriages. There is no social-security mechanism for women, for example, according to this study, two mothers committed suicide along with their children.

No work on human rights is carried out in Thar. Only two cases were registered while 22 cases remained unregistered. Most people of Tharparkar district have no access to media; only 11.90 per cent have access to radio, only 2.70 per cent have access to TV, and only 6.80 per cent can read newspapers.

Only two newspapers gave coverage to this explosive social issue while the electronic media has yet to do something about it.

If media takes the issue of suicide seriously and highlights different factors leading to these extreme steps, then I am sure the authorities concerned under media pressure would take action. Investigation will help in revealing the actual reason behind it, and any people involved who led to it in the first place.

LAGHARI SHAH NAZ Development activist Mirpurkhas, Sindh