The global financial crisis is taking its toll in India’s cities as some despairing investors and stockbrokers seek refuge from their losses and debt in suicide. A wave of financially related deaths over the past month has sparked concerns about the vulnerability of unsophisticated investors and borrowers encouraged by rising markets and easy credit in one of the world’s fastest growing economies.
“We are seeing a rise in the number of suicides happening as a result of financial pressures,” said Johnson Thomas, the director of Aasra, which runs a suicide prevention helpline in Mumbai.
“People are committing suicide because of difficulties associated with globalization and a life all about debt. Lots of people are living beyond their means.”
As billions of rupees have been wiped off the Bombay Stock Exchange, Aasra has started holding outreach sessions in India’s financial capital for distressed workers at financial institutions and the bourse.
A 24-year-old stockbroker in Hyderabad was one of the latest casualties of the markets fall. Police said Amir Ali Virani of Omen Solutions had taken his life after losing money when the Sensex index fell below 8,000 points last month. He was found hanging from a ceiling fan at his home.
A few days earlier in the same city, Bhupendra, another stockbroker, blew himself up with his wife and baby son by igniting a gas cylinder.
In spite of assurances by Manmohan Singh, India’s prime minister, that the country is resilient to the credit crisis, death for some is preferable to the shame of financial loss. Police in Mumbai last month discovered a family destroyed by overwhelming credit card debt. Seventy-year-old A. K. Nair and his wife had swallowed poison. Their middle-aged daughter and son had hanged themselves. Between them, they had 73 credit cards. The siblings had two cars and had taken out a bank loan to start a new business.
Also in Mumbai, a 34-year-old stock market investor, Parag Tanna, killed himself and his pregnant wife. In a suicide note to his mother, Mr. Tanna, who had lost his job with a brokerage, said he saw no way out of his personal financial crisis.
Police estimate that 118,000 people in India killed themselves in 2006, a rise of 34 per cent over a decade.
About 1,000 farmers hit by crop failure and debt kill themselves every month, often with lethal draughts of insecticide, according to official figures.