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Saturday, November 15, 2008

Article in Financial Times London mentioning AASRA's work

Financial Times,London
Concern over Indian investors' suicides
By James Lamont in New Delhi
Friday Nov 7 2008 13:35

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.
Concern over Indian investors' suicides
By James Lamont in New Delhi
Friday Nov 7 2008 13:35
continued from previous page

"People are committing suicide because of difficulties associated with globalisation 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.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Pakistani girl commits suicide/Appeal for release of her parents

Dear friends,

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has obtained information that a girl whose parents have been detained in India committed suicide on November 3, 2008 due to the hardship of taking care of her sisters. We ask for your participation to join the petition asking for both prime ministers to take steps to release the detainees.

We earlier reported that 61 Pakistanis have been detained since May 2008 for alleged forgery of visa documents, which were according to them, issued by visa agents in Pakistan. (AHRC-UAG-013-2008)

Please write letters to the prime ministers of Pakistan and India asking them to take steps to release the detainees who are also victimised by visa agents in Pakistan.

To support this appeal, please click here:

A Petition to the Prime Ministers of India and Pakistan

Dear _____,

PAKISTAN/INDIA: A young girl commits suicide in protest as her sisters starve and her parents and brother are detained indefinitely in India

A 16 year-old girl committed suicide on November 3, 2008, to protest against the increasingly desperate situation of her parents and eight year-old brother, detained in India's Jodhpur prison since May, and of her sisters left behind in Pakistan. Ms. Saba Hussain is the daughter of Mr. Mohammad Hussain (Passport number AC 370290, Visa Number P 756531), who has been arrested for the forgery of visa documents.

Hussain and his family entered India (through Mona Bao to Sao Jan city from Karachi) on March 28, 2008, and traveled freely within the country before being arrested on forgery charges on their return to the border in May. The family says that they were unaware of fraudulent changes that visa agents had made to their visas.

Hussain and his wife had left six girls in Karachi, Pakistan with his 80 year-old mother. Before going to India they had put aside enough food for a month, but seven months later the girls have nothing left to live on. Because the household is entirely female there is little the girls can do to get money. They have no male protection in a society that requires it, and to try to arrange loans would leave them vulnerable to abuse. Relatives taunted the girls, though they helped them for a short time. However now the siblings--most of which have had to leave school--are growing increasingly desperate, as demonstrated by Saba's suicide.

Other than the deceased girl, the daughters are Isha, 7, Aqsa, 10, Wajiha, 12 and Farah Naz, 20 years old. The mother, Mrs. Yasmeen Hussain, 45, (Passport number: KC 196391, Visa number: P 756529) and Master Abdul Karim are with Mohammad in prison.

There are increasing indications that visa fraud is coming from the nexsus between criminal agents in Karachi and members inside Islamabad's Indian High Commission. The distance between the two cities encourages people to use courier-agent services for visas, and some are being duped with insubstantial or forged products, and then arrested when they travel. They are often freely allowed into the country, allowed to travel between cities (and police stations) unchecked, but are stopped and asked for bribe money on their way out. Those that cannot afford it are arrested. There are currently at least 61 persons detained in Indian jails under this charge, some of them children.

I urge that the Indian government acknowledge the severe flaws in such cases, and that authorities both sides of the border thoroughly investigate the corruption that is allowing the visa scams to take place, and for innocent people to be jailed. The physical and emotional toll taken on these people and the families they leave behind is severe, as demonstrated by the suicide of Saba Hussain.

I demand that the Hussains and their young son be returned home to mourn the death of their daughter, and rebuild their household. The family must be compensated and offered rehabilitation for their ordeal. This must also take place for the 61 or so other Pakistanis detained in India under the same insubstantial charge.

Yours sincerely,


1. Dr. Manmohan Sigh
Prime Minister
PMO, Room number 152, South Block
New Delhi
Fax: +91 11 23019545

2. Syed Yousaf Raza Gillani
Prime minister
Prime Minister House
Tel: +92 51 920 6111
Fax: +92 51 922 1596

Thank you.

Urgent Appeals Programme
Asian Human Rights Commission (

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Article on AASRA in liveMint mumbai

LiveMint Mumbai Oct 25,Sat issue
* Posted: Sat, Oct . 1:43 PM IST

* Culture

Aasra, Mumbai
What Aasra needs right now is both visibility and volunteers
Sidin Vadukut
Several of the plastic chairs inside the Aasra office lie vacant at 6pm on a Sunday evening. Johnson Thomas and the two other volunteers could be expected to be crestfallen. But after years of trying to recruit volunteers, they are now used to the disappointing mathematics of Aasra’s weekly orientation sessions for new volunteers.“Six people had called up and said they’d like to come. We are happy at least two people came,” says Thomas, a freelance art and film writer, with an enigmatic half-smile that is his default facial expression. Every Sunday evening, Aasra, a 10-year-old helpline for people with suicidal tendencies, conducts an orientation session for potential volunteers. The sessions take place in front of a well-used blackboard, streaked with several layers of white chalk markings, in the cramped and slightly claustrophobic Aasra office in Koparkhairane, Mumbai.
During the hour-long session, Thomas and other volunteers take potential volunteers through a brief profile of Aasra, the process involved in becoming a volunteer and, as candidly as possible, try to convey a true picture of the work involved.
Aasra is part of an international network of suicide helplines supported by the UK-based charity organization Samaritans—the global network is called Befrienders International. Established in 1953 by Chad Varah, the organization’s prime activity is a telephone helpline that is open to anyone with emotional trouble, especially those that could potentially lead to suicides. Troubled individuals are encouraged to call in and speak to a volunteer who is specially trained to listen and offer support.
In Koparkhairane, Aasra volunteers run the helpline 6 hours a day, seven days a week, between 3pm and 9pm. Volunteers man the line in 3-hour shifts on most days. “Normally, we get around seven or eight calls a day,” says Thomas. But during school examinations and result declaration season—“You could call it ‘peak’ season for want of a term”— Aasra has to handle 70 to 80 calls a day.Schoolchildren are the single largest contingent among Aasra’s callers. The 20 volunteers end up working overtime handling calls from students.
Taking a call is anything but a matter of speaking softly in a soothing voice. “You have to be a friend: non-judgemental, non-intrusive. And never give advice. Most kids already get enough of that from their parents and teachers. They don’t want even the helpline to do that,” explains Thomas. And to make sure that every “listener” sticks to these basic tenets, all volunteers are made to go through a six-month training programme involving classroom sessions, group activities, role-plays and mock telephone calls.When asked to share his experiences with callers, Thomas is hesitant. Confidentiality is central to the Aasra’s—and Samaritans’— scheme of things. Callers are not asked to log their names or addresses and each call is treated as an independent engagement. Callers can come to the Aasra office for a face-to-face, but due to a shortage of volunteers, Thomas says, they try to avoid that as far as possible.
When pressed, he talks about how students, normally children in classes X and XII, call in during exam times. “It is a period of transition for these kids. And they feel scared. They call up saying they haven’t been able to study...or they’ve done badly in the exams.” The children then confess that they are scared of their parents’ reactions. Aasra volunteers first let the children speak their minds and focus on the issue bothering them—often just getting someone to listen to them prevents these children from doing anything drastic. Thomas says about 40% of the children call back for further help. “We don’t keep a database of callers. But we do know the frequent callers.” Calling regularly, though, is not something Aasra encourages. “We want them to become self-reliant over time.”
One of Thomas’ Aasra colleagues, an employee with Central Railways, relates how the volunteer training programme often ends up helping a lot of volunteers cope with their personal issues too. Thomas then reiterates how the rewards are unmatched: “When you do a good job here you save a life. Almost instantly.”
After the meeting ends, and both potential candidates leave, promising to call back, Thomas and his companions pack up after ensuring the phones have been set to auto-forward calls to volunteers’ cellphones: “This way, not everyone has to come down to Koparkhairane to help.”
What Aasra needs right now is both visibility and volunteers. After the meeting, the trio walks me down the road to a teashop. As Thomas sips on chai, he expresses his hope for Aasra: “We are happy with what we do now. But if we grow we can help more people. More children will see our telephone number and more children will call. If they do, we will make sure that there is always someone on the other end of the line.”
If you want to volunteer
Those who wish to be “listeners” have to mandatorily go through a six-month training programme, over weekends only. All volunteers are expected to put in 3-6 hours of work a week, including at least one 3-hour shift on the phone and additional time for team meetings and any outreach programmes. Knowledge of Marathi or Hindi is desirable. You can also help Aasra by assisting it with seminars, outreach programmes and public events. Just turn up for the weekend orientation programme to know what you can do. For details, call Johnson Thomas at
Rs5,000 for this charity can
Pay a month’s telephone and electricity bills
Pay three weeks’ rent for the Aasra office
Help them to conduct 10 batches of school outreach programmes where Aasra volunteers hold seminars and study sessions with schoolchildren
Buy five months of study material and refreshments for an orientation programme batch of 12 volunteers
People like us
B12, Nilamber Complex, HL Commerce College Road, Navrangpura, Ahmedabad
Contact: Call
Lifeline Foundation
17/1A, Alipore Road, Sarat Bose Road, Kolkata, West Bengal
Contact: Call /7432
Childline India Foundation
Nana Chowk Municipal School, 2nd Floor, Frere Bridge, Near Grant Road Station, Mumbai
Contact: ‘’, email or call 022-23881098.
1-8-303/48/21, Kalavathy Nivas, Sindhi Colony, SP Road, Secunderabad, Andhra Pradesh
Contact: Call 09166202000
11, Park View Road, RA Puram. Chennai, Tamil Nadu
Contact: Email or call 044-24640050
ICTA-Santigram, Changampuzha Nagar (PO), Kalamassery, Ernakulam Kochi, Kerala
Contact: ‘’ or call 0484-2540530
1, Bhagwan Das Lane, Aradhana Hostel Complex, Basement, New Delhi
Contact: ‘’ or call 011-23389090
The Samaritans, Helpline
Riddhi Siddhi CHS, Next to Lal Baug Police Chowky, Dr B. Ambedkar Road, Parel, Mumbai
Contact: 022-32473267

Feelings and Emotions of the other side

Gay and Indian | Coming out | Is it criminal?

Nilanjana Bose / CNN-IBN

TimePublished on Sun, Nov 02, 2008 at 21:05, Updated on Sun, Nov 02,
2008 at 23:29 in Lifestyle section

Vadodara/Korapat (Gujarat): Gita is thinking of ways to break her
lover's marriage. A lesbian, she admits to having always liked girls.
"For me this seemed natural but I realised there was no one else like
me. But I was the way I was. I wrote a love letter to a girl once in
school. When the other girls found out, they started coming to me,"
she says.

Kiran is upset. Her whose girlfriend of six years was locked up in her
house by her father soon after their relationship was discovered, and
is to be married off soon. Kiran hasn't seen her girlfriend for two
years but is now determined to run away with her before the wedding
later this year.

Gita and Kiran are just two examples of the silent sexual revolution
sweeping India, slowly but surely. These are all coming out tales,
some mocked at, others reject, but all told in hushed tones.

In 2006, two tribal women from Orissa – 32-year-old Weteka Palang and
24-year-old Meleka Nilsa - became the poster girls for lesbian
movement in India. Both escaped abusive marriages to be with each
other and today live as woman and wife.

But it wasn't really a fairy-tale wedding. The couple had to run away
from their village and stay away for a year.

They then bought acceptance with a drum of country liquor, a sack of
rice and a bullock - which they gave to the Kandha community. But in
the end, they were accepted as two women in love - a victory few
lesbian women can achieve in India.

Lesbianism is something that is rarely talked about in India when we
talk about queer relationships. Yet it is a reality. But the women
say, in many ways their lives are very different from gay men, and
sometimes extremely difficult.

Living with prejudice comes with the territory for lesbian women. From
being called hijras and being mocked openly. Very few
relationships last because of constant pressure from family and

Yet these women look the world in the eye. Some choosing to change
their sex to make themselves more acceptable, some proudly retaining
their feminine bodies - living with their partners in a queer

NEXT PAGE: Maya Sharma told her son she was a lesbian...

Maya Sharma, author, lesbian and activist, was married for 16 years
and even has a son. When she found marriage too stifling, Maya broke
out. Today, as the architect of Parma, a lesbian support group in
Baroda, she is godmother to the lesbian movement in this part of
Gujarat - and is happily settled with her partner for more than three
years now.

Maya and her son have a quiet understanding about her relationship.

"He supports me. We have this tacit kind of understanding. He was
there when we did the book launch. Parents no more and that makes it
simpler. My family has accepted. And I don't care sufficiently. I
don't say it outright that I am living with a woman just as straight
people don't have to say," she says.

Others like 42-year-old Shaina Rahmatullah proudly wear their lesbian
label on their sleeve. Shaina says she has never wanted to be
monogamous and has had more than 25 relationships in four decades. A
practicing Muslim - she was told the Koran forbids same sex love - but
Shaina has over the years, thought of a fitting answer.

"This is natural too. Love is not a crime," she says.

Many women come to Parma to be among their own - from small towns and
villages across Gujarat. None of their parents took it very well when
they admitted to being attracted to their own sex.

But this support group offers comfort and solace. Like any
heterosexual, they too have been through love and loss. For some the
journey has been made more confusing by the sex they were born into.

A transgender man, was born Ketaki and grew up wearing frocks and
skirts. But she hated being addressed and identified as a girl. Today
she calls herself Ajay, a man trapped in a woman's body, attracted to

"I was very confused and then decided to get an operation done. I
didn't have the hormones of a woman. Never felt like a woman. I have
always used the masculine form when I have talked about myself," he

In 2003, Ajay had married a woman at a temple. Soon after, the couple
had a baby, Preeti, using in-vitro fertilisation. But in July, Ajay's
partner - who suffered from severe depression - killed herself. Now
Preeti, their daughter, is being raised by a lesbian support group.

Today, Ajay is in the process of getting a sex reassignment surgery
and becoming a man complete with male sex organs, determined to be a
good father to little Preeti.

"I would tell God, you should have made me a man, why did you make me
a woman? But I know I am doing the right thing. Life is difficult but
I want to make some thing of my life," says Ajay.

Vikram, too, was born Shalu Chauhan, and changed his name after he had
his breasts removed. He says he knew from his school days, that he was
attracted to women

"I met this girl in class V who I liked. I would wish she would just
sit with me. I would play with her, follow her around, made greeting
cards for her but never proposed to her," he says.

At 24, Vikram is like any other young man, complaining how women are
difficult to please. Now that he looks like a man - it's become easier
to get women's attention. Today, he says, he is almost ashamed to have
been born a woman.

"I have always liked girls. It never bothered me. What bothered me was
my body. Very few girls are understanding. They will not want their
boyfriend to be a woman. They want their boyfriend to be a man. In
these things, India is still backward," he says.

From loving women, to wanting to be a man, to get acceptance for this
love - it's a complex world for these women. Yet, they all say this is
far more liberating than being forced into behaving a heterosexual
where they feel neither longing nor love for the opposite sex.

Being accepted for who they are is still a long way off. But the
journey has begun.

Same sex marriages in jeopardy

The agony and anxiety that these couples must be facing due to the inconsistency of the law, must be truly excrutiating.

Liberal California shuts door on same sex marriages

Shalaka Paradkar in Los Angeles
A proposed ban on same-sex marriage in
California -- widely seen as the most momentous of the 153 ballot
measures at stake across the United States on November 4 -- has been
passed, with 52 per cent of the voters saying 'yes' and 48 per cent
saying 'no'.
For the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community which fought
long and hard for the right to get married, the vote has come as a
heartbreaking defeat.

Rashmi Choksey, president of Satrang, the South Asian queer
organisation based in Southern California, says, "It's been a
bitter-sweet election. On one hand, a liberal Democrat was elected
with overwhelming support and on the other, California, which is known
for its liberal views and ideals, has let its queer people down.
Satrang members who got married and those who hope to get married in
the future are quite sad at this turn of events."

Sapana Doshi, 34, who got married just two weeks ago to her partner
Tracy Osborne, 38, is on her way to her honeymoon in the Caribbean. .

Speaking to, she said, "It doesn't mean that our effort
against Prop 8 (the initiative to ban same sex marriages) was a
complete failure. We spread so much awareness. It has forever changed
the way people think about same sex couples. For example, our family
has been transformed. And so many families in California agree that we
are denied our fundamental right. The verdict is a sad setback but not
a defeat."

Sapana, who got married in an Indian ceremony attended by 150 people
at the Sonoma County park in California, said, "We are each other's
soul-mates. For a long time we wanted to get married but were denied
our fundamental right. We were in fact planning to go to Canada
[Images] to get married. But when the state supreme court approved
same sex marriages, it gave us hope. It made a big difference in our
lives. So we moved fast to ensure we can get married soon."

However, Like Sapana, some 18,000 same sex couples who tied the knot
during a four-month window of opportunity opened by the court ruling
now face uncertainty about their legal status as a married couple.

Rashmi Choksey explains, "The fact that Prop 8 was passed with such a
small margin shows that we've made some strides into illuminating the
homophobia and discrimination we face. However, there's much more work
to be done, especially addressing the scare tactics and misinformation
that the religious right has used to its advantage. Basically, those
who got married will be in some sort of limbo, no one knows how it
will play out. I have a feeling there will be several lawsuits filed
for one thing or another, the biggest already being filed by the
American Civil Liberties Union."

The ACLU and other opponents of the ban have filed a challenge with
the state supreme court arguing that California's ballot cannot be
used to undermine one group's access to rights enjoyed by other

The amendment, which passed with 52 percent of the vote, overrides the
original court ruling by defining marriage as the union of one man and
one woman. Thirty states have now adopted such measures, but the
California vote marks the first time a state took away the right after
it had been legalised.

In a landmark judgment on May 16, the California supreme court had
struck down the state's ban on same sex marriage.

Rakesh Modi, chariman of Trikone, a support group for LGBT people of
South Asian descent, said he has not lost hope. "I am very
disappointed with the unfavourable verdict on Prop 8, but I am not
disheartened. This just means that there is more work to be done, even
in the seemingly liberal state of California, to educate people. I
still have faith that Californians are broad-minded enough to accept
same sex marriage. We lost Prop 8 because of the scary tactics of our
opposition in spreading lies."

According to the 2000 census, total number of same sex couples in
California is 92,138. According to analysis of data from the 2000 US
census, there are over 13,000 Asian and Pacific Islanders in same
couples in California, more than in any other state.

According to Satrang's comprehensive survey in 2005 in collaboration
with the largest SA community based partner organisation, the South
Asian Network, over 3,869 of them are South Asians. The California
Center for Population Research says there were four per cent Asian
Indian same sex couples and 0.2 per cent Pakistani same sex couples in

The number of South Asians has grown in the eight years since the
census. Moreover, the data doesn't include those who were counted
under 'unmarried partner household' category or single gays, lesbians,
bi and trans South Asians.

Gay marriage bans were also passed on Tuesday in Arizona and Florida
[Images], with 57 percent and 62 percent support, respectively, while
Arkansas voters approved a measure aimed at gays that bars unmarried
couples from serving as adoptive or foster parents.

Massachusetts and Connecticut are now the only American states to
allow same sex marriage.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Suicide effects everyone.Article 377,decriminalisation and suicide

Decriminalising Gay Sex in India

By Craig Young - 31st October 2008
Is India finally about to decriminalise male homosexuality?

Under its colonial era Section 377 of the Penal Code, sexual
acts 'against the order of nature' are still theoretically illegal in
India. However, New Delhi government doesn't usually prosecute adults
engaging in private consensual homosexual acts. Unfortunately, this
de facto descriminalisation doesn't mean that homophobic harassment
and blackmail of gay men and women are therefore rare.

Some estimate that over fifty lesbian couples have committed suicide
over the last five years. These young women have done so because of
disapproval from their parents and / or society.

To counter the above, the campaign to decriminalize homosexuality has
strengthened. As in New Zealand in the mid-eighties when our turn
came, LGBT rights campaigners have concentrated their efforts on
education and lobbying related human rights and health issues,
especially information and public policy needed to combatthe spread
of HIV/AIDS in the subcontinent. These include organisations like the
Naz Foundation (India), National AIDS Control Organisation, Law
Commission of India, National Human Rights Commission and The
Planning Commission of India.

India must embrace decriminalisation of male homosexuality, as well
as an end to discrimination against Indian LGBTs, according to these
NGO and governmental organisations, especially the Naz Foundation. As
with New Zealand's AIDS Foundation, the Naz Foundation is a
particularly supportive group.

The Naz Foundation is a New Delhi NGO, which operates as a registered
charitable trust and has worked on HIV/AIDS and sexual health related
issues since 1994. Anjali Gopalan founded this organisation to fight
HIV/AIDS and support efforts for decriminalisation of male
homosexuality in India. Anjali began his HIV/AIDS activism in the
United States. After she returned to India during the early nineties,
she was frustrated at the neglect that surrounded HIV/AIDS in the
subcontinent. She founded Naz India to support marginalised Indian
sexual and gender minorities as well.

Naz India focuses on prevention and treatment. It emphasises the
prevalence of HIV, as well as human rights and civil liberties issues
that arerelated to sexuality and sexual health. It also works
alongside human rights groups and agencies such as India's Lawyers
Collective, Human Right Law Network, Amnesty International,
International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission. It has
addressed cases of such cases and often runs workshops forNew Delhi
Police. It also sensitises others to sexuality and gender-
relatedissues of discrimination, physical harassment, corruption and
human rights.

Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code (an 'Anti-sodomy Law')
criminalises same sex sexual behavior irrespective of the age and
consent of the people involved, posing one of the most significant
challenges in effective HIV/AIDS projects within Indian gay and
transgendered communities. The litigation has been going on since
December 2002, when Naz filed Public Interest Litigation, with the
intention of challenging Section 377 in Delhi's High Court.

Unfortunately, the Delhi High Court refused to consider their
petition against Section 377. They argued that the Naz Foundation had
no locus standi in the matter. Since nobody has been prosecutedfor
the last twenty yearsunder Section 377, the Delhi High Courtmay not
strike out the offending moribund in the absence of a petitioner with
standing. However, there may be another High Court ruling on this
section or evenIndia's Supreme Court, under the heading of "Public
Interest Litigation (PIL).

Naz Foundation won its appeal in the Supreme Court against the High
Court decision to dismiss the petition on technicalities. The Supreme
Court decided that Naz Foundation did have relevant standing to
contest a PIL in this case and sent the case back to the Delhi High
Court to further review the case, which it did fromOctober 2006 to
May 2008.

In the interim period, there was strong support for decriminalisation
from a Delhi-based coalition of LGBT, women's and human rights
activists, 'Voices Against 377'. Voices has supported the demand
to 'read down' section 377 and exclude adult consensual sex from any
further criminal prosecution. Furthermore, the movement for change
has strong and influential backing from India's cultural elite. In
September 2006, Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen and acclaimed writer
Vikram Seth united with other prominent Indians in public life and
demanded the abolition of Section 377 in an open letter. This
document demands that 'In the name of humanity and of our
Constitution, this cruel and discriminatory law should be struck

In May 2008, the Delhi High Court finally heard the case. However,
there is division within the governing federal Congress Party Cabinet
over the issue. The Ministry of Home Affairs has adopted a
contradictory position to that of India's federal Ministry of Health
when it comes to enforcement of Section 377 with respect to gay male

At present, Section 377 continues to exist. Some homophobes use it to
threaten and blackmail closeted lesbians and gay men. It has been
abused in the past to harass people involved in safe sex work, such
as condom distribution amongst Indian gay men. Police have also used
itwheninvestigating complaints lodged by parents of the parties

For instance, an Uttar Pradesh lesbian couple that eloped with one
another were arrested and handed back to their parents, despite the
fact that both women were over the age of consent. The police used
Section 377as the legal basis for their arrest.

The debate continues to be waged. Arvind Narrain and Gautam Bhan have
recently produced an impressive collection of academic articles and
personal stories entitled Because I have a Voice: Queer Politics in
India, which documents current Indian LGBT political concerns.

Since May 2008, events have continued apace. On June 29th, 2008,
Delhi held its first ever gay pride march. Bangalore and Calcutta
held similar events. On June 30, 2008, Indian Labour Minister Oscar
Fernandes stated that he supported decriminalisation of consensual
gay sex. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh also seems supportive.

On July 4, 2008, at the Delhi High Court supported the right of
Indian LGBT activists to hold a gay rally. Finally, on July 23, 2008,
Bombay High Court Judge Bilal Nazki also argued that Section 377
should be reviewed. And that is where the matter has to be left.

However, I imagine that pro-reform activists are heartened by the
lack of organised public opposition to their reform initiatives,
although apparently, it seems to still be an issue of contention
within India's federal Cabinet, with Prime Minister Singh asking the
feuding Ministers of Health and Home Affairs to sort the issue out
once and for all, recently.

Strongly Recommended:

Arvind Narain and Bhan(ed) Because I Have a Voice: Queer Politics in
India. New Delhi: Yoda Press: 2006

Open Letter on Section 377:

Naz Foundation:

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Mental Health Week Activity, Johnson Thomas, AASRA

As part of the Mental Health Week Activity , AASRA volunteers distributed book marks and newsletters in order to create a general awareness about the need for sound mental health practices and immediate redressal of mental health ailments and issues relating to it. The event was organised by the volunteers at the Kala ghoda fair on 9th Oct.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

World Mental Health Week 4 Oct to 10 Oct

World Mental Health Week Oct 4-10

Help celebrate World Mental Health Day & Mental Health Week

The theme for this year’s World Mental Health Day is: “Making Mental Health a Global Priority: Scaling Up Services Through Citizen Advocacy and Action”.
The day will highlight different levels of advocacy and the need for enhancing services so that all people can have equal access to information, personalised treatment and resources to assist them in all aspects of their recovery.
NGOs as well as mental health and welfare service providers are expected to celebrate the week to help reduce the stigma associated with mental illness in all communities.
AASRA will be conducting an awareness drive , public exhibition for the purpose of increasing the awareness of mental health related issues.

Life is full of emotional ups and downs. But when the "down" times are long lasting or interfere with ability to function, one may be suffering from a common, serious illness-depression. Clinical depression affects mood, mind, body, and behavior. Most people do not seek help when they need it. AASRA advocates that people undergoing depression must seek help at the earliest through helplines and professional units.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

four things!!

Life can be difficult. Relationships are often difficult. However, after 20 years’ experience with patients and families facing profound challenges, Dr. Ira Byock has seen that four simple phrases can help us through the unpredictability of daily life.
"Please forgive me" "I forgive you," "Thank you," and "I love you."

An excerpt from the book The Four Things That Matter Most A Book About Living by Ira Byock, M.D.

Restoring Closeness
The Four Things are powerful tools for reconciling the rifts that divide us and restoring the closeness we innately desire. When bad feelings occur in our close relationships, we tend to put off the work required to make things right. We always assume we’ll have another chance…later. That’s understandable, but it’s a mistake. Feeling resentful toward the people we love, or once loved, feeling distant from them, erodes our own happiness.
A brush with death often instills in us a newfound appreciation for the gift of life. Simple pleasures – a cup of tea, sunshine on one’s face, the voices of our children – feel like miracles. When we’ve had a close call that shakes us up, the anger we’ve felt toward people closest to us no longer seems significant. Ill will dissolves in love, appreciation, and affection, and we recognize the urgency of mending, tending, and celebrating our relationships.
Because accidents and sudden illness do happen, it is never too soon to express forgiveness, to say thank you and I love you to the people who have been an integral or intimate part of our lives, and say good-bye as a blessing. These simple words hold essential wisdom for transforming that which matters most in our lives – our relationships with the people we love.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Mental Health Issues discussed via email by Capt johann and Dr Achal Bhagat

From: captainjohann
Subject: Re: National trust/inclusion of mental illness and other issues

Dear Dr.Achal Bhagat,
Which of the following allegations according to you are defamatory Sir?
1.You have accepted you are a psychiatrist
2.You have not denied that you filed a case in supreme court for"modified ECT" or is it called impleading in the Erawady case in which 25 mentallyill were burnt alive on behalf of SAARTAk.
3.I do know you were working for Apollo at that time .
4.government psychiatrists supporting normal ECT and private psychiatrists supporting modified ECT is old hat.
I want to be told which is a lie?
Now that you have accepted the main issue of RIGHTS OF MENTALLYILL and also as you work for human rights issues i like to know the following
1.Blind or partially blind DISABLED are NOT represented by Ophthalmologists but by disabled or their carers.
2.Hearing disabled are represented by the persons who are disabled or their carers but NOT by ENT specialists
3.Physically disabled are represented by very articulate Physically disabled like Mr.mahesh or Dr.javed Abidi but NOT BY Orthopedists
4.disabled due to Mental retardation are represented by eminent and knowledgeable people like Mr.Kadkari,Mr. Mehta of PARIWAR or by Dr.HT Dholakia of AWMH again all carers.
5.I have no connection with Leprosy cured whether they are represented by themselves or by skin specialists.
My question to you as a Psychiatrist who fights for RIGHTS FOR MENTALLYILL why is it Mentallyill cured or their carers are NOT REPRESENTED in the august portals of government as you have been doing who is a Psychiatrist? Did not you find a single CURED MENTALLY ILL PERSON who is capable of representing the mentally ill disabled like Ms.Akila maheshwari( a recovered schizophrenic) ,ProfAnil vartak,Dr.lalitha Sehgal,Dr.Krishna Khurana ,Rukmini Pillai,Nirmala srinivasan,Rathna chibber all cares who could have represented our INTERESTS better especially on "narrow issues"

Dear sir you call the inclusion of mental illness in national trust act as "narrow issue".
For me as a carer it is a Major issue sir. the following are some of the other "narrow issues' in which we as carers are trying to bring implementation or awareness in government Bureaucracy.
1.Inclusion of mental illness in national trust act 1999
2.Inclusion of a recovered mentally ill person or a carer in the CCC ,CEC,SCC,SEC as established in PWDEA act 1995.)Politicians ,bureaucrats who never attend are normally the members. Out of 39 only 5 out of 7 disabilities are represented. .
3 All the other disabilities have special Institutions under the aegis of Rehabilitation council of India to cater to physically disabled and mentally retarded but not Psycho social disabled.Infact psychosocial disabled was not even included in the disablities list of Rehabilitation council act of 1992.With lot of emails,letters to editors, they included it only in 2005, i think and started visiting Richmond college of Psycho social rehabilitation, a private institution started by a psychiatric nurse from UK with her own savings.
4.UNCRPD is a red herring for me.The National trust act and DISABILITY COMMISSION with worthy ideas was started by the previous NDA regime due to some Minister's ward having mental retardation. In fact i was having a SADISTIC WISH THAT at least one amongst the worthy parliamentarians or Ministers have a ward with psychosocial disability( I admit i am guilty of inhuman thoughts as i am a human).Now the UPA regime within a month of coming to power disbanded the commission instead of putting its own nominees. They realy worked fast REAL FAST ON THAT.
5.What you have done for NSSO(national sample survey) seperate survey for all the seven Disabilities (at present we are clubbed with MR)because government works on Statistics.
I do not want to burden you with Health Ministry issues which we cares are considering as More Important but you may consider small.
6.Budget for mentally ill disabled is measly 75 lakhs out of 1087 crores for all disabilities. any effort to increase it sir?
7.What is your view on wandering mentallyill. Why not Banyan type organisation in every state of India

1.clinical Trial of Psychiatric medications and how the psychiatrists conducting must not be posted to WHO, geneva
2.A senior Drug company said it considers Psychiatrists as consumers and not the ill who pop the pills nor the carers who pay for them. What is your take on this?
3.Health Budget increased from 19 crores to 198 crores (now 450 crores)due to Erawady tragedy or whose effort?
4.counterfeit Psyhiatric medications being made in Bareilly,Noida, ambala, etc etc and being supplied through CGHS/ESIC. what is your role in preventing this?
5.CGHS puts a cap of 3 years for inpatient treatment or go to Ranchi for permanent care. Your view?
6.Involuntary and voluntary admission
7.No psychiatrist does house call. Your view?
8.Suicides and suicide attempts are hushed up in government hospitals due to present rules. Your view?
9.we have only 3000 psychiatrists for a nation of 1 billion. Your view
10.NIMHANS TYPE of organization for every state as ordained by supreme court Interim order on Erawady in 2002. Why still no action? who is sabotaging in the health Ministry inspite of increased budget which is being surrendered?
11.Black box warnings in drug inserts and how they donot match in Indian drugs. Indian health Ministry doesnot enforce it as in USA> Your view?
12.354 WHO essential drug list doesnot contain respirodone and clozapine. Your view?

1.Drug Pricing and control order is being sabotaged by Drug Multi nationals like JJ,Pfizer,etc etc Your view?
2.Ever greening and Generic drugs. Your view?
With kind regards.
Dear Bhargavi,
Please make me answerable to my mails only. I have not abused colGoel nor amitha dhanda. I am defenitely pained by the attitude of Poonam natarajan.
"Greatness lies not in never falling but in rising everytime we fall"
Captain Johann samuhanand, BANGALORE INDIA
91 80 42023252
www.captainjohann. blogspot. com

--- On Fri, 8/8/08, Achal Bhagat wrote:

From: Achal Bhagat
Subject: Re: National trust/inclusion of mental illness and other issues

Date: Friday, 8 August, 2008, 12:11 AM

Dear All
First just to put the record straight.
I am a psychiatrist who has not 'certified' anyone till now. Believe it or not, I also have the audacity of seeing myself as a human rights activist, inspite of being a mental health professional! Was it Amartya Sen who said people have multiple identities or was it said by Tweedledum (or Tweedledee)? I did not think I was worth a gossip but it seems I am. So having been put in the dock by Captain Johann I am amused at such attention. I plead not guilty sir, I have not administered ECT for past seventeen years.

Making allegations about people and their intentions without actually even having met them is not very helpful and in fact defamatory. But we (those fighting for the rights of people with mental illness) are too few and we cannot afford to lose energy through such debates about people's intentions. So I will let it pass, Captain Johann. I coninue to respect you for what you are doing for the cause of people with mental illness. Now to the issue on hand.
I haven't followed all the communication that has been floating on this e-mail list but I believe it is about inclusion of mental illness under the National Trust and proposed National Trust Act Ammendments

Ok. First, the narrow issue of whether mental illness should be included under the National Trust Act. I think there is no debate on that in my mind. If the disability laws are discriminatory towards one group of disabled how can we expect rights of all people with disability to be addressed. National trust Act as it stands today is discriminatory. So NTA needs to change in its entire objective not just add a disablity or two.

The issue at hand is bigger, it is how in the light of UNCRPD do we fight for a review of laws, programs and policies in our country so that rights of people with mental illness are not infringed any further? I believe we need to oppose ammendments which are being pushed through with little or no consultation. We need to oppose both the process and content of the ammendments in NTA and the PWD Act unless a wider debate is possible and the alignment of the laws to UNCRPD is in letter and spirit. The present ammendment process has not really been a review of all laws according to the principles of UNCRPD. By ratifying the UNCRPD we have as a country automatically committed ourselves to a much more significant change than is being proposed at the moment.

The more significant change may mean a single comprehensive disability law which encompasses the civil, political socio economic rights of all people with disability. It also implies a new National Policy on Disability. It also implies that every state in India should also have a policy on Disability. It also implies that mechanisms for inclusive planning and monitoring in health, labour, education, women and child and twenty one other ministries are defined so that people with mental illness are not made to run between various ministries. It also means questioing the need for institutions like RCI and National Trust as there is a cost attached to running such institutions. The cost is not just a financial cost but such institutions lead to invisibilisation of people with disability from other mainstream planning and delivery processes. It also implies debating the issue of gaurdianship and substituted decision making.

These are significant debates. These cannot brushed aside in a rush to propose just any ammendments. Any process of hurrying the ammendments through is a betrayal of the spirit of the UNCRPD. The next ammendment process is not likely to happen for a decade. Let us not kid ourselves into believing that we have got it right in such a short time.

I do not think calling a meeting of a few professionals (even if such a meeting includes me) or some caregivers or having four zonal meetings amounts to a consultative process as envisaged in the UNCRPD. We need to come together, get organised and challenge the process and the hurry. It is a difficult fight. We, in the mental health sector are not organized as a group. The government and its organizations still want to push through the ammendments which have not been thought through. My colleagues, who are mental health professionals want to protect the existing heirarchy and at present not really clued in on the impact of UNCRPD. I can only plead with people who represent the cause of disabilities other than mental illness that while trying to protect your own rights please also ensure that no one discriminates against people with mental illness.

I am suggesting that we do participate in great numbers in all consultations and raise questions about the process and content. It is not just about including mental illness as one of the criterion for availing the benefits under the Act, it is about recognizing people with mental illness as people with equal capacity and equal entitlements. If one focusses on rights, inclusive planning and a society for all then National Trust provisions are actually provisions which belong to a past era. Most provisions have the assumtion of incapacity. This assumption of incapacity is evident in the day to day functioning of the trust e.g. A marketing agency set up by National Trust after the convention was ratified still had 'unsound mind' as a clause for excluding people to be on its board. It is this assumption of incapacity that needs to be challenged in the law and in our everyday lives.

I read a story today as narrated by Fali Nariman. He wrote that bees have survived because each bee which is squashed by a human hand, stings the hand. It may still get squashed but the fact that it did sting made the other bees survive. Come let us do some Gandhigiri, let us ask some stinging questions not just distribute roses.

Starting next week we at Saarthak are starting a blog on implementation of UNCRPD for people with mental illness. We are also in the process of writing to all parliamentarians to ensure that they raise questions if some "reheated" ammendments do reach the parliament.

Dr. Achal Bhagat
Director, Saarthak

--- On Thu, 7/8/08, captainjohann wrote:

Date: Thursday, 7 August, 2008, 5:05 PM

Dear Bhargavi,
First of all i want to acknowledge and thank you for providing this info about NATIONAL TRUST ACT.
But I am definitely pained by the ATTITUDE OF MS.POONAM NATARAJAN. I have started this fight for inclusion of Mental illness (disabled ) long back and I am dissappointed to be ignored.
I am forwarding my letter to Ms.Poonam natarajan and others on this issue.Mr.kanjilal, another carer has been continuously writing to Mr.Ashish kumar and poonam natarajan by registed post many times. I am forwarding my earlier letters to poonam natarajan,others which includes your co/trustee Ms.Amitha dhanda on this issue.If you go through this carefully you will understand the concerns of the carers.
When Ms.Ruma Bhagat a lawyer(disabled herself) who is also member of the National trust visited bangalore, she emphatically told that it is impossible for other disabilities to be included in national trust. But when i pointed out the affidavit which the Under secreatry Mr.mahendra Sharma in the Ministry of Social justice has filed in supreme court of India in Writ petition(civil) no 301 of 2005, she kept her own council.This affidavit gets confirmed vide letter no F.NO.2/17/99- BOA-VOL-II of Deptt of economic affairs(banking division) issued by Ministry of finance to Indian banks association. Both these letters were given by me notonly to you BUT ALSO TO MS.POONAM NATARAJAN who came to know about the scheme of Integrated development of Persons with disabilities( IDPD) only then.
I am suprised to see a psychiatrist Mr. Achal Bhagat( who was filed case in supremecourt for sake of Modified ECT so that apollo hospital in Delhi will get business which had that equipment at that time) was conducting the NTA at Delhi but not representative of psychosocial disabled or carer's representative. A PSYCHIATRIST' S ROLE IS ONE OF CERTIFICATION AND HE HAS NO ROLE IN DISABLITY SECTOR as is the case with other SIX disabilities who are always represented by THEMSELVES OR by THEIR CARERS.
In my opinion this National level consultation is a ruse by the ministry to get over the presure for inclusion of disabled due to mental illness in national trust act by making all disabilities part of national trust act who DO NOT REQUIRE GUARDIANSHIP. How can a cerebral palsy,autistic child,Alzheimer, disabled due to paranoid schizophrenia live without guardians.I only hope i am wrong.We the carers or psycho social disabled (with rights given by UN convention) only want the "Niramaya" insurance scheme,"Udhayam Pracha,Gyan Prabha,Arunim schemes etc benefits in the existing scheme of things.

with kind regards

"Greatness lies not in never falling but in rising every time we fall"
Captain Johann samuhanand, BANGALORE INDIA

www.captainjohann. blogspot. com

--- On Mon, 4/8/08, V Bhargavi wrote:

Dear Capt. Johann

I was really saddened and disappointed to see your and Akila's emails
on the NTA. With all expectations of proactive and collective
response, I had personally forwarded news about the

absolutely everyone on the Bapu networks. I am sorry that this has
been used destructively only to do more mud slinging at each other,
and setting up destructive communications, when what is needed is
love, co-operation and alliance building.

A more mature response would have involved engaging with the NTA on
inclusion, and writing to Ms Poonam directly. The fact that we are not
able to take such constructive, positive steps is probably the reason
why we are all still stuck in the mental illness sytem, and not the
mental health system.

Let us create a mental

system by first looking at how we write
and communicate with each other, and creating ways of working
together. There are enough road blocks already.

The NTA has put up their entire program on the website. Everything,
including the telephone contacts of the senior most people, is also
loaded on the web.

consultations are
also planned. Let us
use this amply available information and create proactive strategies
instead of wasting our energies finding suitable abuses for each

Good wishes,

and may love and peace prevail in the mental health sector,

Hope to see some of you at the NTA meetings,

Bhargavi Davar
www.camhindia. org

Mental health is about Love. There is no room for Force in it.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

suicide is not chosen.......

“Suicide is not chosen; it happens when pain exceeds resources for coping with pain"

That’s all it’s about. You are not a bad person, or crazy, or weak, or flawed, because you feel suicidal. It doesn’t even mean that you really want to die - it only means that you have more pain than you can cope with right now. Willpower has nothing to do with it. Of course you would cheer yourself up, if you could.

Don’t accept it if someone tells you, “that’s not enough to be suicidal about.” There are many kinds of pain that may lead to suicide. Whether or not the pain is bearable may differ from person to person. What might be bearable to someone else, may not be bearable to you. The point at which the pain becomes unbearable depends on what kinds of coping resources you have. Individuals vary greatly in their capacity to withstand pain.

When pain exceeds pain-coping resources, suicidal feelings are the result. Suicide is neither wrong nor right; it is not a defect of character; it is morally neutral. It is simply an imbalance of pain versus coping resources.

You can survive suicidal feelings if you do either of two things: (1) find a way to reduce your pain, or (2) find a way to increase your coping resources.
Both are possible!!!!!!!!!!!

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Chad Vara with the original helpline

Chad Varah said people must never be alone again and that people must always have someone to talk to in their darkest hour.
Chad Varah is considered a pioneer of talking therapies. Despite having no formal psychiatric qualifications, he initiated this form of support, based on his wider experience in the church, and through establishing the Samaritans service.
He found that if a distressed individual could be given time and be listened to, without judgement, they could start to find a way through even the most difficult feelings.Suicide was illegal in 1950s Britain, making the discussion of related thoughts and fears incredibly difficult for individuals.
Chad Varah’s ground-breaking approach to resolving this contributed immeasurably to fundamental changes in the law and attitudes towards this difficult subject.
Moreover, Chad’s role in creating an international network of charities to help people in emotional distress and at risk of suicide worldwide, means that it is no exaggeration to say that global society owes him its collective thanks.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Article in The Telegraph on Debt Suicides

The Telegraph, Calcutta
Debt deaths stalk cities too
Debt doesn’t drive just poor farmers to commit suicide — financial woes are fast becoming a major cause of suicide in urban India as well, Varuna Verma notes
Illustration: Suman choudhury, Imaging: M Iqbal Shaikh

Inspector Umesh Shet still recalls the horror on 14-year-old Shivamshu’s face as he watched his father, mother and sister being wheeled into Mangalore’s Wenlock Hospital on stretchers. “The boy was sobbing. He kept saying that he had betrayed his father,” recalls Shet, an official at the Mangalore North police station. Shivamshu’s father, Vijay Singh, had asked his son to swallow cyanide and kill himself.

A Bangalore-based scientist, Singh had run into a loss of Rs 47 lakh when a client in Delhi purchased medical equipment from him and did not pay up. “In his statement to the police, Shivamshu revealed that his father’s creditors had been harassing the family for the last six months,” says Shet.

Feeling cornered, Singh brought his family to Mangalore last month, purchased cyanide and chloroform and checked into a hotel. That evening, he told his family it was time to end it all. Singh, his wife Sumati and daughter Shruti gulped the cyanide and went to bed.

“Shivamshu, however, found the poison’s odour oppressive and opted out of the suicide pact,” says Shet. He spent the night watching his mother and sister writhe in pain and finally informed the hotel receptionist. Singh was declared dead on arrival at Wenlock Hospital. The other two have recovered.

Debt doesn’t drive just poor farmers to take their lives in India. Suicide prevention centres are finding that financial woes are fast becoming a major cause of suicide in urban India as well. An on-going study conducted by the Prerana Charitable Trust, a Mumbai-based non governmental organisation (NGO), has found that economic troubles are the second most common cause of suicide in the city. The study claims that while 21.2 per cent of people killed themselves because of illness last year, 8.9 per cent did so for money reasons and 5.7 per cent owing to relationship problems.

Amresh Shrivastava, executive director, Prerana, says debt suicides are a symptom of a developing society. “Social security is poor in developing countries. So a culture of mortgage, debt, borrowing and unemployment becomes a major reason for suicide,” says Shrivastava. Suicide statistics in the US and Canada show that financial problems are the eighth most common cause of suicide.

Tanushree Bose — a resident of Calcutta’s Swarnika apartments — thought gory family suicides happened only in the movies, till her “very normal, respectable and quiet” neighbours, Dipankar and Shubra Samaddar, were found hanging from ceiling fans one morning last month. Their 11-year-old son, Rohan, was lying dead on the bed, his mouth covered with froth and blood.

The police found that Dipankar had suffered huge losses in his construction business and had run up debts of over Rs 70 lakh.

It is not only businessmen who find themselves in impossible debt traps and enter into suicide pacts with their families. In February this year, Veerendra Kumar, deputy general manager, Bharat Heavy Electrical Limited (BHEL), Bangalore, and his wife, Usha, committed suicide because they couldn’t repay a loan of Rs 50 lakh. They left home one night, telling their daughter that they were going socialising. The next morning, the police found the couple dead on the rear seat of their car.

In urban India, debt suicides are usually a family affair. On the other hand, when farmers commit suicide, they do it alone. “An indebted farmer’s suicide results in government intervention. His loan is often waived. This is one factor that makes him take his life,” explains Rajasekharan Nair, secretary, Thrani, a Thiruvananthapuram-based suicide counselling centre.

These rules don’t apply to urban citizens. A debt-ridden businessman, for instance, knows his family will have to bear the burden of his unpaid loan. “To save his family from harassment, he takes everybody’s lives,” adds Nair.

A bank officer from Calicut, Venkat Mathew, had approached Thrani, complaining of severe depression. Mathew had taken a loan of Rs 8 lakh to start a business, which flopped. To repay the loan, he did some manipulation of the bank’s deposits, got caught and was suspended. “When the moneylenders started demanding money, Mathew and his wife felt cornered and went into depression,” says Nair. Two months ago, despite counselling, the couple killed their two children and then consumed poison themselves.

Aasra, a Mumbai-based suicide prevention NGO, claims to have recorded a 30 per cent increase in 10 years in the number of people who call because they are in a monetary mess and are contemplating suicide. Most of these people are young, ambitious, high spending and impatient to get rich, says Johnson Thomas, director, Aasra. “As the avenues for spending increase, most young Indians have started living beyond their means. This leads to debt, depression and suicide,” says Thomas.

Ajay Malhotra, spokesperson, Sumaitri, a Delhi-based suicide helpline, says that 15 per cent of the total suicide calls that Sumaitri receives are related to money troubles. Five years ago, such calls numbered less than 10 per cent.

It’s also about keeping up with the Chopras. “People want to keep up with their friends and neighbours. There is peer pressure to own what others do. And if they don’t have the money, then a conflict arises, which leads to stress and despair,” says Farokh Jijina, president, Befrienders India, part of a world-wide organisation for the lonely and suicidal.

Debt suicides are finding their way into small towns as well. A Jamshedpur-based NGO, Jeevan, tabulated the total suicides in the town from January to June this year. It found that economic problems were the third most common cause of suicide. Twenty per cent of suicide calls that Jeevan receives are related to financial troubles. “The reasons range from unemployment, inability to repay debts and frustration because of low salaries,” says Mahaveer Ram, director, Jeevan.

With 9,500 suicides last year, Kerala has the highest suicide rate in the country. “Debt is a very big problem in Kerala,” says Rajesh Pillai, director, Maithri, a Kochi-based suicide prevention centre. Travel through the state and you see palatial houses dotting the countryside. “People spend heavily on building houses, buying jewellery and in marriages,” says Pillai.

But what they spend is often borrowed money. Thirty-five per cent of the suicide calls that Maithri receives arise out of debt issues. “Debt is the second most common cause of suicide in the state,” says Pillai.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

High risk groups for suicide among teens

1.Adolescents who are physically or mentally disabled.
2.Adolescents who have a mental disorder, such as clinical depression, schizophrenia, eating disorders, body dysmorphic disorder, social anxiety, or bipolar disorder. Over 90% of teen suicide victims have a mental disorder, depression, or a history of alcohol or drug abuse.
3.Teenagers who have recently received a life-changing event, such as blindness, loss of limbs, deafness, and loss of a loved one.
4.Teenagers of conduct disorder (a high level of aggressiveness).
5.Teenagers who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.
Students who failed in school/exams.
Minority Indigenous adolescents, e.g. students belonging to ST.SC.NT catergory
6.Teenagers from emotionally dysfunctional families, where they do not feel safe to talk about things or show their true feelings, and where they are regularly invalidated.
7.Victims of bullying or domestic abuse.
8.Children of divorced parents.
9.Children with restrictive parents.
10.Children who are having difficulty with school work.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Suicide Prevention is Everybody's responsibility

  1. Has debt-related suicide gone up in Indian towns and cities? Is this phenomenon on the rise?
Definitely if you include Farmer suicides. Debt related suicides has crossed 1,70,000 in eight states of India. You should watch the hindi film 'Summer 2007' which brings out this burning issue excellently.Debt related suicides are on the rise mainly because of globalisation leading to rampant urbanisation which has increased the difference, creating a huge divide between the haves and havenots, making it much more obvious and glaring. Agriculture is losing it's pre-eminent position of being a gainful occupation in modern India.More and more people from the villages are migrating to the cities and this has created a huge problem depleting the available labour force for agricultural purposes. The available labour has also upped it's demands and has therefore become unaffordable.Rising prices, lack of available infrastructure, global warming leading to climate change, a general leaning towards cash crop farming for quicker benefits, over-dependence on artificial fertilisers and seeds provided by the multinationals, the continued dependence on moneylenders for loans because bank loans are not that easy to come by and require paperwork are some of the major reasons why more and more farmers are resorting to suicide because they see no way out of the quagmire and choose death.
In the case of urban citified India the reasons are different. The booming economy has not resulted in an appreciable rise in incomes but instead there is a huge rise in prices of essential commodities. Add to that, items which were once regarded as luxuries are now becoming necessities.The media boom has resulted in a corresponding increase in visibility of such items and has therefore created aspirations that go far beyond the capabilities of the middleclass urban Indian.The increasing dependence on credit cards, bank loans and stock options( at times when the stock market is volatile) has destroyed many dreams by churning out instant failures.One day you are up the next you find yourself in the wilderness-all alone and up-to-your-neck in debt.Though there are many jobs available there is no job security. The minute a company experiences a downturn in it's fortunes , lay-offs become the rule rather than the exception.It's a familiar story and it's happening all over the is increasingly visible that young Indians have started living way beyond their means( Options for entertainment have also increased multifold) and this is also causing debt and depression among the citified population- resulting in suicide in a large number of cases.

In the past ten years since we began in 1998, there has been an appreciable rise in the number of callers who end-up destitute and ridden with debt. We have seen a 20-30 % increase in callers experiencing financial difficulties and contemplating suicide.
At AASRA our main aim is to prevent suicides and for that we offer a listening service that actively supports emotional ventilation. The idea is to get the caller to express his/her feelings and emotions without fear of judgement or criticism while retaining anonymity and assured of full confidentiality.Once the ventilation is completed the caller is more able to decide on a future course of action other than suicide.

Why do people who commit suicide due to mounting debt sign suicide pacts with their family? What is the psychology behind such suicide pacts?
It's the fear and anxiety that the family member would become vulnerable due to the mounting debts, that causes the debt ridden person to ensure that the family is free from such future trauma.Death ends it all afterall.

Case Study
1) A migrant from Bihar who used to purchase small plastic toys in bulk to sell at the melas suddenly found that his business was no longer in demand. The melas were no longer generating the crowds it used to earlier and the number and frequency of such social events had come down over the years. The 28 year old man had ageing parents to support and an unmarried sister anxiously awaiting his monthly remittances.He had in fact taken a loan of Rs.3000 before he ventured to do Business in Mumbai. He wasn't able to pay back the loan, his business was not generating enough money to sustain his own needs, he was kicked out of his shared accomodation for his inability to share in the expenses. He tried seeking gainful employment but no one was willing to hire an unknown entity . The general response he got from potential employers was that he should contavt them after a month or so. He tried begging for a while but it made him hate himself. He couldn't go back to his village because he could not face the money lender and the people of his village who had high expectations from him. He was highly distressed at the state of affairs. There really was nowhere for him to go from here. Confused, distressed, depressed, anxious, guilty, he was contemplating suicide when he read our ad in a Hindi daily.

2) A businessman friom jaipur who had 7 jewellery shops and a flourishing business a while back... he had entered into a collaboration with a supplier for gems and the business was flourishing. He had taken a huge loan but he had the required collateral and everything was going along fine when one day the karigars in his shop looted him, vanishing with the gemstones he had procured with great difficulty. he was distraught, there was no way he could pay-u the loans. He did not inform his family about his predicament. He tried to stave off the pressure by handing over the ownership of 6 shops to the bank. Yet there was somemore debt to be repaid and he was at his wits end. Then he read an article in thepaper that there was a great demand for kidneys in Mumbai. He decided to offer a kidney n return for payment of his debt. He came to Mumbai secretly and visited a few doctors in the business. He wasn't offered very much, He tried to contact some agents but that too was not fruitful He was at his wits end and contemplating suicide when he saw our number in the local newspaper.

Unfortunately the government is not interested in encouraging savings. Savings are taxed and the interest you earn from banks is very low. NGO's do not frame policies, the government does that. The loan waiver policy of the government has not reaped much dividends. Farmer suicides continue unabated. The government prefers people to keep buying so that it;s revenues increase. I really don't know of any policies that the government has instituted to prevent rise in debt and resultant suicide...