Union minister Maneka Gandhi believes men do not commit suicide and even says she hasn’t heard of a single such case. Her answer to a query, during a Facebook Live session, about the government’s initiative to reduce suicide rates among men has left several people fuming. The Union women and child development minister said, “Which men have committed suicide? Why not try and resolve the situation rather than commit suicide – I have not heard/read of a single case.” However, the data, in fact, leaves her in a pickle. According to the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), in 2015, as many as 1,33,623 suicides were reported in the country, of which 91,528 (68 per cent) were by men and 42,088 were by women.
Of the 86,808 married persons who committed suicide in 2015, 64,534 (74 per cent) were men, the NCRB data states. The minister, through the three-hour long chat on the social media site, was pilloried by people for being “anti- men” and spent most part of the chat trying to answer questions the over the issue. “What is @wcd doing to make sure parental alienation (father’s from his kids) is not in practise. Isn’t alienating a child from his/her biological father a crime?,” posted a social media user. Reacting sharply to the post, Maneka said that men have to accept responsibility before demanding rights. “This ministry gets a large number of complaints that after a marriage has been dissolved, the father does not pay any maintenance despite court orders and the laws of the land…To push for rights needs an adherence to responsibilities as well,” she said.
This was again met with severe criticism from users who said that the minister was equating a child to a museum for which fathers have to pay a display fees. “Being able to see one’s parent is RIGHT OF CHILD. Only an uncivilised human being will say that unless father pays he cannot see the child,” posted another user. Another user posted a query regarding his matrimonial dispute, where his wife left their three-month-old daughter saying she cannot look after her. The user alleged that his wife has filed a case of dowry and domestic violence against him, his parents and his sister. “Whose doors should I knock to seek justice for my daughter?” he asked. The minister’s reply seemed to indicate that she did not believe the user and suspected that there was something else going on.
“Unfortunately the remedy for this lies in the courts. But simply as a personal observation… I have not met a woman who is happily married, has a baby and then runs off leaving a three-month-old baby on the grounds that she cannot look after her. “According to you, there was the support system of parents in the house as well. So the responsibility of looking after the child would not have been her’s alone. Why not introspect and sort out the actual issue,” she wrote. At the very end of the session though, replying to a user who suggested that there be a ministry only for men, Maneka said that she would welcome it.