Aug 13, 2020, 07:32 IST
While the number of deaths on Mumbai’s train tracks between January and July was considerably lower than in the corresponding period last year, owing to the lockdown, the proportion of these deaths that were registered as suicides rose considerably, data from Western Railway (WR) and Central Railway (CR) reveal.
Between January and July 2019, WR’s Mumbai division recorded 828 deaths on tracks, of which 32 – or 3.86 per cent – were registered as suicides. Over the same period this year, the number of track deaths fell by almost 50 per cent to 436. However, 43 of these – or 9.86 per cent – were registered as suicides. The proportion of suicides thus increased from one in every 25 track deaths in Jan-July 2019, to one in every 10 this year.
CR’s Mumbai division also recorded an increase in the proportion of deaths registered as suicides, though the difference was less stark. Between January and July 2019, it recorded 801 deaths on tracks, of which only six – or 0.74 per cent -were registered as suicides. From January to July this year, the number of track deaths recorded dropped to 359 but the proportion of these registered as suicides increased to 1.02 per cent.
However, a senior motorman -who did not wish to be named -told Mirror that the actual number of suicides was far higher than the official figures claimed. He said most motormen avoid reporting deaths as suicides because of pressure from the families of the deceased. “As soon as there as asuicide case we start getting calls from deceased’s relatives. If it is proven that the person died by suicide, his or her relatives won’t be able to claim insurance. That’s why many cases of suicide are reported as ‘hit by train’.”
To illustrate this, he gave the example of a 56-year-old man who died on the tracks between Mulund and Nahur on August 10. He said the case was recorded as “hit by train” even though the motorman had reported that the man’s body had been cut into two – a clear indication that he wasn’t trying to avoid the train. “Usually, when a person is hit by a train, he or she would have been trying to escape until the last moment, resulting in injuries to the limbs or head,” said a WR motorman.
Mumbai Mirror found at least three more cases in the past two months that were almost certainly suicides. On June 16, a person jumped in front of a local train between Badlapur and Ambernath and was killed instantly. On June 25, a man lay down on the tracks between CSMT and Masjid. The motorman hit the emergency brake but was unable to stop the train in time. On August 3, a man put his head on a train track between Thane and Airoli stations on the trans harbor line and was hit by a local train. The motorman said he tried his best to stop the train in time but was unable to do so.
Ravindra Sengaonkar, commissioner of police, railways, Mumbai, claimed the drop in the number of track deaths was due to the efforts of his staff and not the lockdown. “Every life is precious for us. Our staff works round the clock and so deaths of tracks have fallen drastically,” he said.
Dr Harish Shetty, a psychiatrist, said that the pandemic and resultant lockdown could have sparked the increase in suicide by-train. “The pandemic has caused many people to lose their meaning in life and develop a sense of worthlessness. Loss of job and severe financial problems can cause despair and hopelessness, which can lead to low moods, depression and suicide,” he said. “Prolonged isolation can also lead to a sense of loneliness. Uncertainty, fear of contracting an illness, and fear of death can increase the burden,” Dr Shetty added.
He said that while fear is an adaptive response that can cause a person to take appropriate precautions, excessive fear can be counterproductive and lead to suspicion and anger. “If these are not tackled early, irritability, gloom and depression can set in. If the early symptoms of depression are not managed, it can lead to suicide,” he said. Another psychiatrist, Dr Rajendra Barve, said that dedicated help lines should be set up to counsel people struggling financially or otherwise because of the pandemic and lockdown.
Courtesy Mumbai Mirror