Stressed businessmen ending their lives might edge out farmer suicides from the headlines. As many as 11,716 businessmen reportedly killed themselves in Covid-hit 2020. In comparison the number of farmer suicides stood at 10,677. What is worse is that the number of suicides by businessmen has steadily risen for the past five years — 8,573 in 2016, 7,778 in 2017, 7,990 in 2018 and 9,052 in 2019 before registering a nearly 30% jump to reach 11,716 in 2020. The number of businessmen who took their own lives exceeded the number of farmers committing suicide for the first time last year. Conversely, the number of farmer suicides steadily declined from 11,379 in 2016 to 10,281 in 2019.
Distress arising out of the pandemic is the likely reason for the jump in the numbers. It should also serve as a wake-up call to the policymakers who have designed relief packages targeting different sections of the population during the pandemic. The numbers provide telling evidence how the informal sector has suffered during the pandemic, how numerous small businesses were wiped out and how relief, if available at all, failed to convince so many businessmen of better prospect in the future and they should pull along. While the suicide figures were taken from National Crime Records Bureau, the number could have been higher since often such cases are brushed under the carpet with deaths being attributed to other causes.
The type of businesses that suffered in the informal sector mainly comprised small sundry service providers such as beauty parlours, eateries, travel agencies, maintenance units, vending stalls, small manufacturing units. Vanishing customers and access to finance were two of the key problems for these sectors. This sector hardly has access to formal credit and the means to tide over long-term difficulties. Though the government and RBI pumped ample liquidity into the system, the benefit was there mainly for the big and MSME sector and hardly provided any relief to the tiny entrepreneur. The authorities must try to contain this figure as the economy struggles to get back on its feet.
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