Suicide was the leading cause for over 300 "non-coronavirus deaths" reported in India due to distress triggered by the nationwide lockdown, revealed a new set of data compiled by a group of researchers.
The group, comprising public interest technologist Thejesh GN, activist Kanika Sharma and assistant professor of legal practice at Jindal Global School of Law Aman, said 338 deaths have occurred from March 19 till May 2 and they are related to lockdown.
According to the data, 80 people killed themselves due to loneliness and fear of being tested positive for the virus. The suicides are followed by migrants dying in accidents on their way back home (51), deaths associated with withdrawal symptoms (45), and those related to starvation and financial distress (36).
"There have been a staggering number of suicides, caused by fear of infection, loneliness, lack of freedom of movement, and alcohol withdrawal during the lockdown."
"For instance, unable to handle withdrawal (a medical condition), as many as seven people have died after consuming aftershave and sanitizer lotions. A large number of migrant labourers stuck in quarantine facilities, away from family, died by suicide, fearing infection, and sometimes even the stigma attached to the disease," the group said in a statement.
Other causes of the “non-coronavirus deaths” were exhaustion (24), including workers travelling long distances on foot or queuing for ration, police atrocity/state violence (11), lockdown-related crimes (12), including vigilantism for violating rules, and denial of medical care (38).
"There are also 41 cases where the specific cause is not clear. An example of such an incident would be where there is a conflict between the account of the state and the family/friends of the deceased about the cause of the death, said Aman.
"Also, it must be understood these deaths are likely an underestimate: only a fraction of deaths as per reported by the media and we may have missed some deaths reported in local media as well."
The group tracked newspapers and web portals in a handful of languages – primarily English, Hindi, and a few vernaculars (Kannada, Marathi, Tamil, Bengali, Odia, and Malayalam), and social media to compile the data.
According to the latest Union Health Ministry data on Sunday morning, the COVID-19 death toll in the country rose to 1,301. The number of cases climbed to 39,980.
The nationwide lockdown began on March 25 and will last till May 17.