The poisonous wheat pills, that are used to safeguard wheat grains from rodents and harmful insects, have taken dozens of lives in suicides here as the same are easily available across the tehsil, it is learnt

The dangerous drug is easily accessible to the general population and the authorities concerned have not taken any step to check over the-misuse of the ‘killer’ pills. According to data collected by ‘The Nation’, the THQ Hospital Minchinabad received four patients who swallowed the poisonous pills in the last 14 days and none of them could survive. Moreover, four more such patients were brought to the hospital and three of them died while one could survive. In 2013, the wheat pills claimed over 13 lives.

In the recent past, Shehzad, 19 and Mumtaz 17, residents of Mauza Badri Nrainpura, Minchinabad, committed suicide by ingesting wheat pills, due to hurdles in love marriage from the family. Mumtaz died before she reached the hospital. After attending her funeral, Shehzad also swallowed wheat pills and was referred to THQ Hospital Minchinabad where he fought for life for some time and then kicked the bucket eventually.

Recently, Muhammad Akhtar Kharl, 25, of Basti Behramka Autar, committed suicide, due to financial hardship. The victim’s family had very small landholding of two acres and had spent a lot on the treatment of his mother at Meyo Hospital Lahore. The financially distressed young farmer went to his fields and gulped wheat pills. He was declared dead after being rushed to a hospital in Minchinabad.

Mehboob, 24, a resident of Mohallah Parachan committed suicide by taking pills after a strife with his wife over some domestic petty issues on August 13. Similarly, the next day, Muhammad Akhtar Kharal, 25, ended his life by swallowing wheat pills in Surajpur Colony after a petty quarrel with his wife. He was taken to THQ Hospital Minchinabad where he was pronounced dead on arrival.

On August 6, a 12-year-old boy, allegedly committed suicide by consuming pills in Basti Behkan Bodla over his father’s refusal to buy him a cell phone and scolded him for not scoring good marks in examinations. The boy left the home in anger, got wheat pills from bazaar and swallowed. He has been identified as Zafar Yaqoob, a student of Class V at a Madrassa.

The people blame the growing suicide trends on easy availability of cheap pesticide and insecticide tablets and drugs on the local market, lack of awareness, social taboos and lukewarm response of the local community.

According to locals, more than two dozen such incidents have occurred in the tehsil, over the last four to five years in which teenagers, youngsters lost lives after consuming wheat pills.

“I can surely count more than two dozen incidents of teenage suicides in border area villages of the tehsil. The ratio is high among young boys and girls, in majority cases the teenagers consumed tablets of phosphorus available at small village shops. People use these pills generally for keeping their stocks of wheat grains safe from dangerous pests and insects,” Muhammad Husain Nunari, a local resident said. He said over the last four years there was a sharp increase in teenage suicides due to easy availability of the deadly tablets.

Zulfiqar Ali Ch, president of Humane Welfare Organization, argued that wheat pills was not the only cause of the rising suicide rate in the area as extreme poverty, depression, lack of awareness, unabated availability of lethal weapons, drugs, unchecked access of youngsters to internet were also to blame.

According to experts, if anyone takes wheat pills, he or she should be given two litres of cooking oil or coconut oil that might be life saving. The aim of giving oil is to prevent disintegration of the pills so that it passes out in the stool without releasing phosphine gas.

Dr Riaz Shah, in charge of RHC, Mandi Sadiq Ganj, said the consumption of phosphorous tablet was very common among teenage in the area. “Most patients are not brought to the hospital to avoid media exposure. Parents in case of teenagers fear if the cause of consumption of fatal tablet is revealed, it will bring stigma to their family,” he said. Parliamentary Secretary on Forests, Wildlife and Fisheries Mian Fida Husain Wattoo says, “It is a serious issue, DHO Bahawalnagar, civil society members, law-enforcement agencies and other stakeholders will be consulted to address the menace.”

Dr Pervaiz Malak, a physician at THQ Minchinabad, said phosphorous was a rapidly soluble content and it took hours to cause death, so within half an hour, patients’ stomach could be washed but the problem was that the affected families preferred to get them treated at private places to prevent social stigma.

“Action needs to be taken against illegal sellers of pesticides and suicide attempts with use of drugs/pesticides should be reported to police and the health departments. Every effort will be made to look into the matter and resolve it forthwith by including religious scholars, police force, civic bodies and even teachers in the process,” he concluded.