By Shafique Shar
As it had been feared by many, the lockdown that had been imposed around the country in order to contain the spread of the deadly Coronavirus, has ended up in worsening the economic woes of those who belong to the underprivileged segments of society.
Specifically in Sindh’s Khairpur district, the misery can be seen through a startling rise in the suicide and attempted suicide rate. Since lockdown began on March 22, at least 15 people have attempted suicide. Out these five people lost their lives.
The situation of the people is so miserable, that many of them – especially daily wage earners – are on the brink of starvation due to unavailability of any labor or work.
Shahzeb Sahito was among those who killed himself during these days.
His brother told Voicepk.net that Sahito killed himself because he had no work.
“He tried very hard to find any work but failed,” said his brother ‘Sunny’. “He was so depressed with his circumstances, that he set himself on fire.”
Sunny said that their father, who is a primary school teacher, has also fallen very ill and has been bedridden.
Like Sahito, Sohail Shar, a daily wage laborer also ended his life after he had become unemployed. Not being able to tolerate the poverty he was drowning in, he too set himself on fire.
As Shar lay on his deathbed, in his last recorded message he said that he had tried to kill himself because he was facing intense poverty and had to go hungry every day. Despite the recorded message, the district administration tried to make it sound that the suicide was due to family issues.
Among these 15, four young girls also tried to take their lives over what was said to be family issues and domestic violence. But civil society activists alleged that these cases were also linked to the financial instability of their households.
Raja Abdul Hameed, who is a lawyer and a social worker in Khairpur has demanded that the government provide financial aid to the families of the deceased – in actuality they were but victims of the circumstances.
The federal government has already announced a relief package of over Rs1200 billion under the Prime Minister Ehsas program to mitigate the adverse effects of the lockdown and to provide monetary assistance to poor families.
But Hameed alleges that the district administration was distributing cash assistance under the Ehsas program only on political grounds. He vows to file a complaint in this regard against the administration in the court of District and Session Judge Khairpur.
“If the administration does not provide the relief package to those who are actually in need, and those who deserve it, then hundreds of other people may be pushed to take such drastic measures,” said Hameed.
Meanwhile Dr Aijaz Magsi, from Khairpur Medical College Hospital, said that a majority of suicides were of women who were affected because of domestic disturbances and fights. He said the main reason was depression, which was also present in the youth.
“In the current situation, the youth has been deeply affected by the economic downfall, and unemployment in particular,” he said. “If the Government works on decreasing the problem of unemployment, suicide and attempted cases will also fall.”