The National Crime Records Bureau - India's official source of police statistics - released its numbers for the last year earlier this week. One major part of the findings are, of course the crime statistics, particularly to do with >crimes against women . But another fascinating part is what the police terms as 'accidental deaths', a catch-all phrase that covers everything from being bitten by a dog to a bomb explosion and suicides.
Over the years
The number of accidental deaths in India has been rising steadily over the past decade, and as we'll soon see, there's one particular category that's propelling these numbers. Accidental deaths tend to be overwhelmingly male, in part a reflection of the greater exposure of men to the world outside, with all its attendant dangers, in our society.
The NCRB splits accidental deaths into those that occurred on account of natural causes, and those that occurred because of "unnatural causes".
Causes of natural accidents
Just 5% of accidental deaths can be attributed to natural causes. It's quite incredible that lightning killed nearly 3,000 people last year, the largest of the natural causes. Heat and cold together killed another 2,000 or so. Within states, it's sobering to see a large number of deaths on account of exposure to cold in prosperous Punjab and Haryana - perhaps the outsize media attention that Delhi's winter gets takes the focus away from other northern states.
Causes of unnatural death
Nearly 4 lakh people died of "unnatural causes" last year, the vast majority of them in road accidents. This is a growing category of causes of death in India, and is in fact now the #1 cause of accidental death for men in India. A shocking 30,000 people die of drowning in India every year, most of them in isolated incidents and not mass boat capsizings.
No. of deaths per day and their causes
A closer look at the 'unnatural causes'
Three big states - Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra - account for a third of all deaths in road accidents in India. Most deaths on the road involve two-wheelers, followed by trucks or lorries and car. Over 12,000 pedestrians died on India's streets in 2013.
State-wise no. of road accidents
Causes of suicide
The number of suicides in India has been growing every year but the rate of increase hasn't been much higher than the natural population growth - the number of suicides for every 1 lakh Indians has remained between 10 and 11 for the last decade. Tamil Nadu and Kerala have higher suicide rates - over double the national average."Family problems" account for a quarter of all suicides, followed by illness (20%). Most suicides occur in the 15-29 age group (34%), closely followed by the 30-44 age group.