THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The State Commission for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes will conduct a detailed study into the suicide cases reported at Njaraneeli, a tribal hamlet in the Peringammala panchayat in the capital.
Commission chairman and retired judge P N Vijayakumar said nearly 40 persons were reported to have committed suicide between 2012 and 2017. These include 38 hanging cases, one self-immolation and one by poisoning. The deceased range from a 14-year-old boy to and 80-year-old man.
“I’ve called for the police GD (general diary) pertaining to every unnatural death reported from the settlement since 2012. Each case will be examined to find out whether there has been a common factor,” Vijayakumar said.
After the Commission registered a case, the issue was raised in the Assembly by former Tribal Welfare Minister A P Anilkumar. Responding to the queries of Anilkumar and Opposition leader Ramesh Chennithala, Tribal Affairs Minister A K Balan said 189 suicides have been reported in the area since 2012. Of them 33 were tribal persons, he added. But the statistics with the SC,ST Commission show about 40 unnatural deaths have been reported from the tribal hamlets alone.
According to the commission chairman, police apathy is one of the reasons that hid the high suicide rate from public attention. “If they had alerted the government in time, the casualties could have lowered,” he said.
The commission, after its visit to the tribal settlement, is of the view that the settlement faces a range of issues connected with the anti-social elements which operate from the nearby forests.
“Those with criminal background are engaging in illicit liquor brewing, tree felling and even hunting in the forests. Tribals and other local population face threat from them,” he said.
But, according to Vijayakumar, illicit liquor brewing alone cannot be blamed for the unusual deaths. “The need of the hour is to find out whether there is a common element in these deaths. For this we will examine each case in detail,” he said.
The commission team which visited the settlement included ex-MLA Ezhukone Narayanan, registrar OM Mohanan, assistant registrar K Sheeja and section officer Sabitha.