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Thursday, January 12, 2017

Bhopal Notes :: 46 :: Avoidable deaths in Madhya Pradesh

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A kind of report card for several sectors of administration in the MP government was released the other day by a locally printed national daily. Several headlines as given below were revealing:

11.    “Three farmers committed suicide everyday in 2015”
  2.    “State records most suicides due to mental disorders – 1227 deaths”
  3.     With 625 deaths state fourth in student suicides.    “Bhopal tops in deaths at railway crossings, state ranked fourth”
  4.     “Accidental deaths: MP second in India, Bhopal tops megacities”
  5.    “MP reports second highest deaths during pregnancy”

These headlines do tell us something about the failures of the state administration. What stands out is that life in the state is cheap and easily dispensable. People commit suicide in large numbers and among them are people from the most precious sections like farmers and students. Farmers’ suicides have virtually become a national phenomenon. Whether in MP or Maharashtra or Telangana or some other regions in the north or south, farmers are getting increasingly hit by climate change that has led to crop failures rendering them unable to pay back loans at usurious rates of interest. Though it does need courage and guts to end one’s life yet for the farmers driven to desperation it appears to be a softer option.

 What the state could have done to alleviate farmers’ sufferings was to prepare them for climate change that was being so feverishly talked about for more than a decade. What it has begun now could have been done a few years ago as the threat of climate change was hovering around for quite some years. The climatologists’ prognoses of climate change in India had clearly indicated that central part of the country, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, would be hardest hit by the rise in temperature or floods or droughts, etc. Thankfully the government has now devised strategies to enable the farm-dependent population to meet the threat of climate change. A warming planet needs suitable reorientation of agricultural practices, especially to enable the crops to develop resistance to variable temperatures or rainfall. Efforts at such reorientation have unfortunately been rather tardy.

Suicides among states young people have various reasons. Numerous instances have been reported of young girls committing suicide, mainly for reasons of inability to cope with the pressures of studies, parental pressures for premature marriages or unhappiness with the selected groom or even failure in love.  Reports of giving up life by hanging themselves up from the ceiling fans are quite common. These suicides are largely because of high aspirations on one hand and on the other observance of age-old traditions by parents who have not been able to adapt to the changing times. The state perhaps could think of intervening by way of making efforts to raise educational levels of people who are somehow not touched by the sweep of education and its edifying influences. The parents in such sections are not able to tune in with the rapidly changing attitudes among younger people. A lot is being done both, by the Centre and the state for education and health of girls and yet there are pockets of such misery. A lot more is needed to be done across the several age groups to induce and promote social change –  changes in mindset that are likely to act as prophylactic for forcing young women into mental  distress that pushes them to take the extreme step.

Students’ suicides have consistently been occurring among the boys and girls largely of professional institutions. As the field of Humanities presents to them a dismal future there is great rush to get into engineering/technological or medical or other professional institutions in search of better prospects. After scraping through the entrance tests, generally by hook or by crook, they find the going tough when they are up against the courses they find difficult to tackle. The products of the infamous “Vyapam” scandal are living examples of children in such unfortunate vicissitudes. Unable to deal with the pressures of these courses and facing prospects of failure at the examinations they find their and, in many cases, their parents’ dreams shattering all around them. Suffering from severe depression they find only death as deliverance from their misery. It is a highly aspirational society today and everybody nurses dreams of a good job and a reasonable income to lead a decent life in what they see a rising India. However not everyone is equipped adequately to deal with such academic pressures. Having taken up the courses by means fair or foul they find themselves unable to deal with the crunch situations after entry into institutions. One hears of a lot of counseling of students but one wonders whether there is counseling for them at crucial stages of their educational careers to facilitate selection by them of a stream that suits their intellectual abilities. This appears to be more necessary for those who belong to the economically weaker sections

While for the deaths at railway crossings the responsibility is only of those who get hit by running trains, for accidental deaths on the roads the responsibility is largely of traffic police and the road construction engineers. True, a large number of deaths are caused due to over-speeding during the late hours of the night or early morning hours but many deaths occur because of faulty road engineering or lack of maintenance of roads. Failure of traffic police to control the traffic or check deviation from traffic rules or even possession of a valid driving license are also contributory to the high incidence of casualties on the roads. A report recently said Bhopal is among the four mega cities in so far as deaths in road accidents are concerned. Governance on the roads needs to be strengthened, especially in view of proliferation of two wheelers which are used largely by reckless students and those who belong to the rising neo-middleclasses who never bother to equip themselves with the knowledge of traffic rules.

Madhya Pradesh is also reported to be the state where number of deaths during pregnancies is second highest in the country. This is basically because of institutional failure in the healthcare sector where the performance of the state is marked by sheer poverty of effort. These avoidable deaths are largely because of absence of doctors, medicines or ambulances in the rural and remote areas. Apart from such unconscionable neglect in regard to maternal health the state lags behind even in the infant mortality rate. While in the urban areas the state seems to have abdicated from its responsibilities in healthcare, in the rural areas its services, at best, are patchy. Though it is not a matter of mere statistics, performance of the state is generally dragged down in healthcare by its lack of the needed effort in rural areas.

What emerges from the above is that mere high growth rate in Gross State Product (GSP) cannot take care of the two vital sectors of healthcare and education and it is these two social sectors, along with infrastructure, which extend happiness and wellbeing to citizens. Neither a two digit growth in GSP, as is claimed by the state, nor the establishment of a department of happiness can prevent suicides of farmers and disappointed young people or accidental deaths or deaths due to lack of institutional health facilities. What are needed are focused efforts to tackle the basic issues of governance for all-round improvement in the levels of healthcare, education and infrastructure.


*Photo from internet
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