The morbid story of suicides in India

More affluent states are seeing increasing numbers of suicides. Also, suicides in the informal sector, ignored so far, are the highest

India's tryst with economic globalisation began firmly from the 1990s onwards. The last two decades have witnessed major changes in the organisation of production in different industries as well as changes in the nature of economic institutions. During this period, the trend pattern of suicides in the country has also shown considerable variation (Figure 1) with a fluctuating trend during the 1990s being replaced by a firm upward trajectory in the last decade.

The trend growth rate in suicides was quite volatile during the 1990s with the y-o-y growth ranging from -1.8% to 9.3%, showing variations of more than 10 percentage points. The volatility became less during the 2000s with the range cramping from -0.1% to 5.9% at a dispersion band of around six percentage points. The emergence of a steady positive trend during the last decade indicates that the overall growth pattern in suicides in India has become more stable and steadily increased over time.

State-wise disaggregated profiles

Figure 3 shows the aggregate suicides in 14 major states of India during 1991-2010 decomposed into the sub-periods 1991-2000 and 2001-2010. The 14 states are those with at least a 1% share in total suicides (combined suicides of 25 states excluding Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Uttaranchal and also the seven union territories). These 14—Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Bihar, Gujarat, Haryana, Karnataka, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Orissa, Tamil Nadu, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal—are the key 'suicide' states in the country, accounting for 97.6% of total suicides during 1991-2010 and 97.7% and 97.5% of total suicides during 1991-2000 and 2001-2010, respectively.

West Bengal recorded the highest number of suicides (276,431; 13.7%) during the last two decades, followed by Maharashtra (264,303; 13.1%) and Tamil Nadu (226,077; 11.2%). Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh each account for more than 10% of total suicides and are ranked 4th and 5th. Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh and Orissa are ranked from 6th to 10th, respectively.

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