Concerned over sudden spike in suicides during the Coronavirus-induced lockdown, Himachal Pradesh High Court has directed the state government to set-up anti-suicide helpline within three weeks.
The order was passed after a PIL filed by a law student Tushar, who referred to a spike in the number of suicides in the state.
A division bench stressed on the need for taking effective and meaningful steps to prevent the persons ending their lives.
The court was of the view that there should be a mechanism through which effective interventions could be made to counsel the persons passing through a period of anxiety and stress.
Ajay Vaidya, senior Additional Advocate General, who appeared in the case assured the court that measures like setting-up of an anti-suicide helpline would be taken and the government would respond to the situation.
In its order, the court also asked for a wide publicity to the helpline numbera in all English and Hindi newspapers through advertisements and official communication platforms.
The petitioner said Section 29 (2) specifically speaks about the duty of the appropriate government to plan, design and implement public health programmes to reduce suicides and its attempts in the country.
The court ordered the government to respond to the petition within six weeks. The next hearing in the case will be on October 15.
State Health Minister Dr Rajiv Sehjal said: “Growing number of suicides during the Covid-19 crisis is really a serious matter. I will definitely look into it and if a helpline is required, as the High Court has directed, I will ensure this happens.”
Director General of Police Sanjay Kundu said that last month he had flagged the issue to the state government and briefed Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur also.
“It’s an issue of mental healthcare,” he said.
Data released by the police has revealed that 466 persons died due to suicide in the last six months. Of these, 349 cases were reported between April and July.
According to the data, three persons die by suicide everyday in the state.
Special secretary, Health, Dr Nipun Jindal said, “Mental health problems have increased during the lockdown and there is a plan to set up a helpline in each of the 12 districts.”
Of the total suicides this year, 12% (55) were abetted and cases were registered under Section 306 of the Indian Penal Code. In the remaining 88% of cases (411), inquest proceedings were initiated under Section 174 of Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC), said Khushal Sharma ,SP (Law and order).
Among the victims, 62% are men and 38% women. Of them, 21% (101 cases) are of labourers; 15% (72) housewives; 8% (38) students; 6% (29) private employees; and 4% (16) each are farmers and businessmen.
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