Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Suicides, Some for Separatist Cause, Jolt India

India — Sai Kumar Meegada, a 20-year-old straight-A chemical engineering student at a prestigious university here, came home from breakfast one morning early this month, slipped a length of clothesline around his neck, tied it to the ceiling fan in his dorm room and hanged himself.

“For the people of Telangana, this is my final salute,” said a note he left, referring to the decades-old struggle to create a separate region in Andhra Pradesh, a large state in southern India. “My final and last request is take my body to the legislative assembly. Goodbye.”

With that, Mr. Meegada became one of a surprising number of people — many of them young and educated, with bright futures awaiting them — to have committed suicide over the battle to carve out India’s 29th state. Some estimates have attributed more than 200 suicides to the cause.

But these politically motivated deaths are just one aspect of a troubling trend. Suicide has become something of a phenomenon in India, especially in the south, which now has one of the highest suicide rates in the world — a fact that has both puzzled and alarmed public health experts.

Suicides by indebted farmers are frequently reported in the news media and pointed to as a sign that India has forgotten its rural poor. But according to Indian government statistics, bankruptcy or poverty provoke less than 5 percent of Indian suicides. A family conflict, a broken love affair or an illness is a more likely spur.

To read more: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/31/world/asia/31india.html?nl=todaysheadlines&emc=a1

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