Concerns are looming over a steady rate of suicide among Indian expatriates in Ras Al Khaimah. One of the most shocking incidents in December of an Indian social worker who was found hanging in his apartment sent a wave of shock within the Indian community in Ras Al Khaimah. A group of social workers have sprung into action as a result, setting up a support group, 'Atmaraksha', (protect the soul) to help distressed people.
Twenty-five Indian expats, all living in Ras Al Khaimah and belonging to various professional backgrounds, have come together to start this group.
Sreedharan Prasad, 59, a prominent social worker in the emirate said Atmaraksha is working closely with welfare group Indian Relief Committee (IRC) and the Indian Workers Resource Center (IWRC), a Welfare Initiative of Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs, Government of India (GoI) under the aegis of the Indian Consulate in Dubai aimed to assist Indian Workers residing in UAE in various legal, financial and social matters.
According to IRC general secretary Sumesh Madathil, in 2018, there were nine cases of suicides reported in the emirate, 13 in 2017. Two cases were reported in the last three months alone. Population of Indian expats in Ras Al Khaimah is said to be close to 400,000, according to numbers gathered by IRC which is a dedicated welfare committee in Ras Al Khaimah.
“It is a concern as every life is precious. And we must do as much to help people in distress,” said Madathil.
Social, financial and medical reasons are said to be three main causes of suicides among Indian expats in Ras Al Khaimah. “Most cases of suicides happened are due to financial instability. We have seen more cases of people from Kerala committing suicide,” said Sreedharan Prasad, 59, who has spearheaded the group along with other social workers in Ras Al Khaimah.
“People from Kerala are family-oriented. When faced with a tough situation, they find it tough to handle the situation and resort to taking their life. Instead of finding a resolution to the problem, people tend to keep their issues to themselves. A lot of people are embarrassed to talk about their problems to strangers as well,” said Prasad.
Prasad said the untimely death of a 35-year-old Indian social worker on December 10 2018 in Ras Al Khaimah prompted the community here to start the support group to help distressed people. “Sandeep Vellaloor was a staff surveyor with the RAK department of public works and an active social worker who had helped several people come out of their miseries.”
“He had contributed Rs400,000 to the family of an Indian worker who was paralysed and then died in a road accident in Ras Al Khaimah in 2017. Unfortunately he could not help himself and suffered a huge financial loss after setting up a transport company. This pushed him to commit suicide. His death came as a blow to us and in many ways opened our eyes to the fact that people don’t share their problems.”
Vellaloor was a father-of-three, the youngest of whom is now a six-month-old boy. “If he had to take his life abandoning his family, he must have been pushed to doing it. Several people are under massive debts. Debt collectors show no mercy and chase you. They are aggressive and even resort to threats to collect the dues. Naturally, someone who is not mentally strong can succumb to the pressure, pushing them to take their own life. That is why we have started the group so we can talk to people regularly and help them before the issue gets worse,” said Prasad of Atmaraksha.
He added following the death of Vellaloor, the Indian community decided to launch the support group on December 28, 2018. Atmaraksha has 25 members with five core committee members. The volunteers spread out across the entire emirate to conduct periodic meets to talk to Indian expats. “We are targeting labour camps and communities, even house-wives in order to listen to people’s problems. The key agenda within the group is to listen. People don’t talk easily. So we make them comfortable with us so we can listen to their problems. Of course as a next step we help resolve their issues by talking to relevant authorities and banks so as to relieve the expats.”
He is quick to add only genuine cases will be heard as far as people coming with financial debts. “Responsibility is key and we do not want anyone taking undue advantage of us. We ask them where and how they lost their monies.”
“People with mental, family and emotional issues are referred to the Indian consulate. I am in touch with Dr. Shailaja Menon at the IWRC who has kindly offered her support for our cause. We will be setting up camps and she has agreed to come to Ras Al Khaimah to talk to workers. The Ministry of Health too is helping us a great deal.”
“As part of the agenda of Atmaraksha, we recently invited certified trainers from the Ministry of Health (MOH) to conduct a seminar on Basic Life Support (BLS). The main aim of the training was to educate residents of Ras Al Khaimah in life saving skills.”
“Life is precious and as a responsible fellow human-being all of us can do our bit to help a distressed person.”