Sudden suicides tear Tirupur textile city to shreds

Sudden suicides tear Tirupur textile city to shreds

When farmers’ suicides in recent past shot up in states like Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh, the “miracle export town” of Tirupur along with Coimbatore that account for 50 per cent of the country’s hosiery units and employing over three lakh persons, was credited for averting a farm crisis here.

The reason: it absorbed a large number of unskilled and semi-skilled hands mainly from Tamil Nadu’s southern districts like Theni and Madurai.

Now, a big hole is seen in that theory. Police records show that 879 suicides have been reported from Tirupur alone—males outnumbering women in this impulsive self-killing—in the last 20 months.

These include 491 cases in 2009 and 388 till early September this year, including 149 women taking off their lives for one reason or the other.

Many of these suicides are believed to be among the depression-prone migrant workers, who migrated on seeing in Tirupur a “mini-Singapore,” says District Collector Samayamoorthy.

As more workers from northern States like Rajasthan and Chattisgarh join these garment units—Tirupur’s knitwear garments production alone averages Rs 10,250 crore per annum—“free after-work social mores and interactions triggering culture shocks is the most common reason cited for these suicides,” Samayamoorthy told Deccan Herald.

The suicides “are also about young women getting pregnant without their parents knowing it, males ditching their wives on mere suspicion, or to unemployment when units cut back on work due to the power crisis,” say analysts tracking the Tirupur industry.

The migrant workers in the initial stages are also “lured into borrowing huge sums of money at high interest rates by the kandhu-vetti gang” in anticipation of recovery from their bulging wages later, explained Shanmugham, leader of the DMK-affiliated Labour Progressive Front.

Alarming jump

While some of the large export houses, contacted by Deccan Herald, see this trend more as a “social crisis in values,” the alarming jump in the number of suicides has forced Tirupur district collector to recently form a committee to counsel the distressed. “We are going to prepare a concrete action plan as part of the District Mental Health Programme guided by experienced psychologists,” said Samayamoorthy.

During April 2007-June 2008, lots of small and medium enterprises in Tirupur, to hedge their foreign exchange risks when the rupee appreciated against the US dollar, badly burnt their fingers, beguiled by little understood “derivative products.”

The global financial meltdown in 2008 only worsened their financial woes. “That shadow still lingers,” admitted A Sakthivel, a hosiery industry pioneer in Tirupur and now president of the “Federation of Indian Export Organisations.”

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