By Julian Jyrwa for TNT – The Northeast Today News
Wards Lake, the famous lake in the pine city of Shillong, is quite popular among visitors and locals as well. In the recent past the site has witnessed many cases of suicides. Why many have chosen this lake as the spot where they take the final curtain call is a mystery.
A tourist turned suicide spot, the Ward’s Lake has witnessed over 181 suicides in the past three years.
An analytical piece on the topic matter still couldn’t crack the mystery even as police and concerned authorities scratch their heads to unravel the truth while citing ‘ease of access’ as one of plausible reasons behind the rise in suicide cases.
Police records revealed that in the year 2014, there were a total of 72 reported suicides, in 2015 there were 51 cases and in 2016 there were 58. These numbers show that the ease of access to this famous tourist spot might turn into an acclaimed suicide spot.
PASSING THE BUCK
When contacted, police sources said such cases are regrettable. However, there is little they can do with regard to fencing to prevent such cases because the matter of fencing the lake falls under the jurisdiction of the forest department.
When one takes a walk around the lake it is easy to spot the many areas where the walls can be easily scaled. Although security fencing is done on many sides of the lake, it is not enough to prevent potential victims from taking their own lives.
This is a turn of phrase that one does not wish to see or hear
Unwilling to own the onus of fencing, Forest Department, A. K. Srivastava, Additional Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (S.F. & E) stated that the department looks after only issues regarding flora around the area and the ‘sanctity of the lake’. He claimed to have no knowledge of suicide cases that have occurred in the lake.
Does ‘sanctity of the lake’ include it turning into an easy place to end one’s life?
On further questioning, Srivastava said that the fencing around the lake is meant for the protection of the flora, and that issues of security are not under the concern of the forest department. However, he added that he would sensitise his officers about such issues. He laid more emphasis on the police forces to increase the patrolling around the area. ‘The lake which is very much a public property is all our responsibility’- he concludes.
If the fencing is only for the protection of the flora then does the forest department not care about human life?
This diffusion of responsibility between the two departments, Forests and Police, shows how such issues are just swept under the rug. This is huge problem in this state as nobody is willing to take up the responsibility of taking care of this lake.
So what can be done to prevent such losses from happening? The first suggestion would be setting up of a Suicide Helpline by either suicide prevention NGO’s or the Government. Secondly, the Forest Department and the Police department in a collaborative effort must make it imperative to have more security in and around the area. The Forest Department can ensure the fencing along the road dividing the lake and Botanical Gardens to be made higher and around the lake as well.
These measures will go a long way to help in the prevention of such grievous cases from taking place.
But after seeing how both the departments aren’t willing to own responsibility, it will be quite some time before something is actually done. It is disheartening is see people in higher places just pass the buck. Why can’t someone stand up and take the call?
The present article is part of an internship programme by Julian Jyrwa of Christ University, Bengaluru