Panaji, Aug 30 (IANS) An increasing number of suicides by jumping off river bridges in Goa has led an academic to write to Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar to build high balustrades along the structures to make suicide attempts more difficult.
Nandkumar Kamat, who teaches Botany at Goa University, appealed to the chief minister to work out both short-term and long-term measures to curb suicides in the state.
Over 300 people killed themselves in the state in 2010, police statistics say.
"I appeal to you to either raise the height of these balustrades or railings so that climbing on top of them and jumping in the river below becomes difficult," said Kamat.
"Both the bridges on the Mandovi have become notorious for suicides. As honourable MLA of Panaji, you need to do something serious, tangible about it and it is simple, logical and possible," Kamat wrote in his communique to Parrikar.
"Putting these railings in place can be the most practical solution. Setting up of surveillance cameras too can help curb suicide attempts off the state's bridges," Kamat told IANS.
While Goa has been grappling with the issue of suicides, a mind-numbing incident recently made the headlines in nearly all local newspapers and sparked a state-wide debate on mental health.
On July 29, before sunrise, Vaishali Kambli, a 35-year-old doctor at a government hospital, drove off from her home on a scooter with her two daughters, aged five and three, riding pillion.
On reaching one of the two bridges across the Mandovi river, which connect the capital Panaji to Porvorim, an upmarket suburb, Kambli parked her scooter and leaped off the bridge with her children in tow.
While her husband subsequently claimed that she was being treated by a psychiatrist, the relative "ease" with which she committed suicide by simply jumping off the bridge was something Kamat said needs to be addressed.
"Every life is precious, CM. I just don't understand why you can't make our bridges suicide proof. Of course, one may argue that suicide-prone people may anyway find other ways to jump. But please note that near jetties, wharfs, etc. there are people around and they can notice such activity," Kamat said.
A suicide was averted by an alert mother earlier this month after her young daughter tried to end her life by jumping off the Mandovi bridge.
The daughter was grief-stricken after she was allegedly repeatedly raped by her uncle, a Goa Police officer.
After the Mandovi, railings on major bridges across deep rivers at Zuari, Bori, Banastarim, Khandola, Colvale and Siolim could follow, Kamat said.
Experts say increasing pressure and stress are some of the key reasons for suicides in Goa, a state conventionally known by and large for being a laid-back society.
They say the reach of professional counselling needs to widen.
Emeidio Pinho, who works with a children's NGO, said suicide attempts as a trend increase after sensational reportage of suicide attempts in the media.
"When youngsters read the details, they try to emulate them; especially those who see a suicide as an easy way to run away from a tough crisis," Pinho added.
(Mayabhushan Nagvenkar can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)