Tashi Penjore

Thirty two people were cremated today. 18 of them were pilgrims who died in the recent plane crash in Nepal. The rest were from other parts of the country – they were bought to Thimphu when their families learnt that that His Majesty the King was personally supporting the cremations, and that His Holiness the Je Khenpo was presiding over the final rites.

Most of us know about the recent tragedy in Nepal. And some of us have heard heart-wrenching stories about the victims and their families.

But what about the rest? What about the other 14 who were cremated today? Most of them were old. And some of them had been quite ill. One of them, however, was young, and he’d been healthy.

Tashi Penjore, 14 years old, committed suicide by hanging himself from a tree. He killed himself because he had failed his exams. He was in Class 7.

Suicide case

During question hour today, I asked the minister for works and human settlement if and when wages for the National Workforce would be increased. This issue has already received considerable attention in the National Assembly.  Still, I went ahead, hoping to push the government to raise the wages of our workers. It didn’t work.

And during question hour today, I wanted to ask a second question, this one on an issue that we have not talked about at all in the National Assembly. I’d wanted point out the growing number of suicide cases in the country. And ask the minister of health if the government was responding to this terrible trend.

Unfortunately, I didn’t get to ask this question, as the Hon’ble Speaker did not allow it.

I’m worried that the number of suicide cases in our country is unusually high. And I’m worried that it is increasing.

In one month alone, in January 2009, 15 suicide cases were reported around the country. In January and February this year, 13 cases were reported.

According to police records, there were 53 suicide cases in 2008 and 49 cases in 2009. This year, as of April, the police have already recorded 25 suicide cases.

By any measure, these numbers should give cause for concern. But considering our small population, and our emphasis on GNH, these figures should be alarming.

25 suicides in 4 months. That, extrapolated, is 75 cases 12 months. That works out to 11.9 suicides per 100,000 people. And that would place us at number 34, if we were included in the list of countries by suicide rate.

Something is gravely wrong. And we – all of us, not just the government – need to do something about it.