A recent study on the causes of 1,325 suicide cases reported at the 1,000-bed Mahatma Gandhi Memorial Hospital in Warangal over a span of six years (2010-15) raises many questions as 519 cases (58.3 per cent of total) were due to consumption of pesticide and another 174 cases (17.4 per cent), were due to consumption of herbicides and fungicides.

The study titled “Trends and determinants of suicide in Warangal District, Telangana, India: six years retrospective study based on secondary data”, was conducted by researchers from Department of Anthropology, University of Delhi and AIIMS, New Delhi and was published last month in the Egyptian Journal of Forensic Sciences.

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While the study does not mention directly that the suicide cases due to pesticide, herbicide and fungicide poisoning were farmer suicides, it clearly mentions, “Since majority of the rural population in Warangal district is primarily engaged in agricultural based activities, the higher rural suicide reported in the present study could be due to the agrarian crisis.”

It also mentions, “Furthermore an elevated suicide incidence in a rural area than compared to the urban area of Warangal district was observed.” It may be mentioned here that as per the NCRB – 2016 data, 17 per cent of total farmer suicides in India in 2015 were from Telangana – 1,358 cases, second highest in country after Maharashtra – 3,030 cases. Suicide by pesticide consumption is not a new trend in Warangal.

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One study conducted earlier on pesticide poisoning cases admitted in the same hospital (MGM Hospital, Warangal) in the years 1997-2002, had reported that 8,040 patients were admitted to the hospital with pesticide poisoning in the five-year span, of whom 1,819 died.

It also mentioned that 96 per cent of the pesticide poisoning cases admitted in 2002, “had intentionally poisoned themselves” and that two pesticides, monocrotophos and endosulfan, accounted for majority of deaths with known pesticides in 2002.

A study published in 2016 by forensic experts from Kakatiya Medical College, Gandhi Medical College and ESIC Hospital in Sanathnagar had stressed on the need of ‘Poison Control Centres’ in TS to ensure quick medical care to persons suffering from intentional or accidental poisoning. Dr Shashi Bhushan Vemuri, former head of All India Network Project on Pesticide Residues says, “If immediate medical care is provided, pesticide poisoning victims can be definitely saved from death.

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Government should strengthen primary health centers and train people involved in agriculture in providing immediate care in case of pesticide poisoning.” #KhabarLive