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December 7, 2018

Bleak lives


December 7, 2018

Occasionally in the press, as happened a day or so ago, we read a tiny piece of news hidden somewhere between the columns on the inside pages. This particular news item spoke of a rickshaw driver in Karachi who had committed suicide by swallowing poisonous pills, essentially because of what was described as domestic disputes. But we do know according to research conducted by organisations including the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan that such discord within households most often arises over financial pressures. We do not know if this was the reality in the case of this unnamed rickshaw driver. He has made the newspapers only because he died. Otherwise, there are countless others like him who live on in misery, their stories hardly heard.

The fact however is that at least 37 percent of the Pakistani population suffers from depression according to figures recently released by international bodies. Around one third of the population lives below the poverty line, earning Rs3,000 or less per month to sustain themselves and their families. For many of us, it is impossible to contemplate how life can be lived on such a budget. It is then no wonder that bodies including the UN have said that the suicide rate in Pakistan is on the rise. People like the rickshaw driver obviously feel they have little choice but to end their own existence. Others who earn somewhat over this minimum figure or perhaps an amount less than what has been devised as the average feel the same way. They include the labourers who produce so many of the goods we use daily, the transporters whose animals carry heavy loads to the homes of the rich, the domestic servants who clean and cook and look after the children of their employers, sometimes in exchange for almost no wage at all. There are also those who toil at brick kilns, on agricultural estates and sometimes in homes. The situation of miners is no less bleak. They also face continuous peril from the conditions in which they work. The suicide in Karachi should act as a reminder of the society we live in. Surely improving the situation of those caught up within it with no escape must be the priority of all with influence. Sadly, it seems to be the priority of no one.

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