Search This Blog


Wednesday, November 18, 2015

"Sorry Papa, I quit": is coaching in Kota driving students to suicide? - Catch News

|17 November 2015

Shocking numbers
  • Police say 13 students have committed suicide in Kota this year, as opposed to 11 last year
  • According to government data, 45 of 84 student suicides in Rajasthan last year happened in Kota
  • On 1 November, two students killed themselves in the city
Coaching hub
  • Kota is the hub of coaching for engineering and medical entrance tests
  • With 1.5 lakh students enrolled in coaching centres, the industry is worth Rs 3 billion

More in the story
  • What's leading to this high rate of suicide?
  • Mental health experts have found a strange new trend since the movie 3 Idiots was released

"Even after all the studies, I wouldn't be able to succeed," wrote Anjali Anand in her suicide note.

Anjali, 18, hung herself from the window grill using her dupatta in Kota on 1 November. She was sorry that she couldn't fulfil her parents' expectations.

Hailing from Uttar Pradesh's Moradabad, where her father works as an insurance agent, Anjali, a student of Kota's leading Allen Coaching institute, had come to the city after completing class XII in 2014.

She had already dropped one year with the ambition of clearing the All India Pre Medical Test (AIPMT).She failed to clear the exam this year. She stayed back to study for another year.

Her mother alleged that she was under pressure to complete her course within two months which, otherwise, would take six months.

In yet another incident on the same day, Arshdeep, 16, a student of class XI, hung herself from the ceiling fan. Staying in a joint family, she had dropped out of classes and coaching for the past three months and was currently doing self study for AIPMT.

Cold statistics
These are not isolated incidents. Kota is the coaching hub of the country, and students who fail to cope with the stress of preparing for competitive exams have often committed suicide in the past.

According to police records, at least one coaching student commits suicide every month. So far in 2015, 13 students have killed themselves. The same number committed suicide in 2013. Last year, the number stood at 11, superintendent of police SS Godara told Catch.

However, according to the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), out of 100 suicide deaths in Kota in 2014, 45 were by students who failed in exams. To put things in perspective, there were a total of 84 suicide deaths due to examination failure in the whole state of Rajasthan.

Stress and the Bollywood effect
There are only 10,000 seats in the IITs, and another 16,000 in NITs and other institutions covered under the AIEEE. The number of students enrolled in Kota at present is 1.5 lakh.

Parents' high expectations put the children under tremendous stress, and at times depression, giving rise to suicidal tendencies, says Dr RC Sahni, head of Samvedna Research Foundation, Kota.

According to cops, 11 students committed suicide in Kota in 2014. According to govt data, it was 45

Sahni has noticed a significant change in the mode of committing suicide since the Aamir Khan-starrer 3 Idiots was released.

Earlier, the main mode of committing suicide was by consuming Sulphas suicide pill, while now, the trend is to hang oneself and leaving behind a note saying "Sorry Papa, I quit", just like the character Joy Lobo did.

According to Sahni, all concerned - parents, teachers and the coaching system - are responsible for the depression among students. The cruel gradation system, an integral part of coaching only adds fuel to the fire.

Though most of the top coaching organisations claim to have counsellors, they are present in name only and scientifically ill-equipped, he asserts.

Economics in the driver's seat
A student pays around Rs 1 lakh as tuition fee, and an equal amount on lodging and boarding. This makes Kota's coaching market worth Rs 3 billion.

These institutes not only look, behave and approach things like corporates, but are engaged in cut throat competition. Most of them indulge in poaching other institutes' faculty members, and even top-ranking students for marketing purposes.

In 2011, Etoos, a South Korean coaching giant backed by the $104 billion SK Group, entered the Kota market after poaching 21 teachers, including eight star faculty members from the famous Bansal Classes alone.

Around seven years ago, seven leading faculty members from Bansal left the institute to start a new institute - Vibrant Academy.

In 2012, over a dozen star teachers joined Allen and a number of them left Vibrant to join Motion IIT.

The increasingly corporate character of these institutes has attracted big-ticket investments. Hong Kong-based equity broker and financial services group CLSA and Milestone Religare have reportedly invested Rs 100 crore and Rs 60 crore respectively in Resonance Eduventures.

Meanwhile, Franklin Templeton and the Nadathur Group, owned by NS Raghavan of Infosys, have respectively invested Rs 50 crore and Rs 60 crore in the rival Career Point.

Since 3 Idiots was released, students have turned to hanging themselves like the character Joy Lobo

This corporate 'warfare' has had a negative impact on the already-stressed students. As a teacher shifts, students also like to follow him. In some cases, bright students too are 'stolen' by rival institutes by allegedly offering financial packages in the form of scholarships and even cash.

The annual pay package of a teacher, which ranges between Rs 15 lakh to Rs 50 lakh, may go up to Rs 2 crore in the case of a star teacher.

Getting an opportunity to teach coaching classes in an institute has become a status symbol even for those employed in government schools, says social activist Brijesh Vijayvargiya.

Interestingly, several premier coaching institutes have their new campuses in Kota's Indraprasth Industrial Area, developed by the Rajasthan State Industrial Development and Investment Corporation. Many electronic industrial units, for whom the area was initially meant, sold their industrial sheds to coaching institutes.

Will anything change?

In view of the increasing trend of student suicides, the Kota district administration issued 12-point guidelines to all the 137 coaching centres in the city last week.

Prepared on the advice of an expert committee, the guidelines include:
  • Appoint professional career counsellors, including psychiatrists and clinical physiologists
  • Conduct career counselling for both students and parents
  • Conduct screening tests for admission
  • Review the process of shifting students to different batches
  • Rationalise the number of students in a class.
  • Have a weekly break, organise yoga classes and recreational activities, and conduct surprise checks of meals served in the hostels' dining halls.
  • Accept the fee in multiple instalments, rather than the current system of one instalment for the entire session.
  • Conduct medical check-ups of students found frequently absent from classes.
The state government is contemplating regulating the working of the coaching organisations. Rajasthan's higher education minister, Kali Charan Saraf, has reportedly directed the education secretary to this effect. The department has sought guidelines for coaching institutes from states like Telangana, Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra.

However, the fact remains that all one has right now are simply guidelines and not mandatory provisions. "Unless mandatory provisions are made at the state government level, no significant improvement can be expected," says superintendent of police Godara.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Interview with the Director, Part 1: State of MiTr - Fifth Estate

Recent suicides on IIT-M campus have led to a wide-ranging debate on the existing support systems in the IIT’s and specifically IIT Madras. We approached Prof. Bhaskar Ramamurthi, our Director, to understand the administration’s take on several issues that have been raised by students and general public – from the state of counselling services to academic pressure and prevention of substance abuse.

In the first part of this four-part Interview with the Director, Prof. Bhaskar answers several questions regarding MITR, its role and effectiveness.

You can look through the other parts here: 

The suicides have brought MITR and its effectiveness under the radar. Are there any changes that are going to be brought about in MITR to make it more efficient?
Nothing in haste – we are trying to understand whether anything is lacking. Our outreach to students has many components, of which MITR is only one part — we have professional counsellors who are available at locations in the institute, where people can go to them unnoticed. They are available on telephone after office hours too.

If MITR is only one part, what are the other layers of support infrastructure that institute has put in place?
The Anandakrishnan Committee that was constituted by MHRD recommended that it isn’t enough to just have professional counsellors in hospitals where students will not go — those who need help usually tend to withdraw, so it is good if informally, faculty and fellow students can direct them to counselling. These people aren’t trained to provide counselling themselves; that’s not the purpose. We have support at different levels.
Now this is a little bit like airport security: we can’t assume that everybody knows how to do their job well or will do their job. Why do you think they have 3-4 layers of security in airports? It’s to ensure nobody slips past, right? So if every 10 students have a Faculty Advisor, a good Faculty Advisor may notice something in the student when the student meets him or her, and they will alert MITR. If the Fac-Ad doesn’t, then MITR student counsellors and MITR FacAd will have to find out on their own.
Each counsellor has about 10 students in the hostel to just keep an eye on — if he/she is missing from the room for a long time, locked up in the room, not going for meals, and so on. The training that is given to these coordinators is, if that happens, how do you go ask what’s wrong and if they need anything? This is why it’s easy for the students to think these counsellors are spying when they come knocking on doors. The question is, if you don’t do that, how will you even reach out to the person? So there is a tradeoff here… Students and faculty are not trained in counselling because they’re not expected to do it. What we are trying to tell them is how to be helpful without necessarily being intrusive. When student counsellors feel that there is a problem but the student is not responding, they inform the MITR FacAd, and this makes it look even more like it’s spying! Drawing a line between what is intrusion and what is not becomes a problem, but it has been recommended that it’s not enough to just advertise the names of the counsellors, as they do in the West. Instead,  like in the old days, where friends used to be much more intrusive in some sense, maybe we should look out more for each other…

Student counsellors are given mess rebates to reward them for their work — how effective do you think this is as an incentive?
This has been effective to some extent. Mess rebate is a way of showing the administration’s gratitude to those who make an effort. Cash was a not an option, hence the mess rebate. If he/she has been able to help even one student by connecting them to a professional, then it has been effective. If the student in question had been regularly hanging out with his friends then there is absolutely no reason to suspect anything. In case of very introverted students who stay locked up in their rooms, the student counsellors come in handy to help connect them to  professional help.
The question then is if the student who has needed help has been given the necessary care. That’s when the MITR advisor, Dean (Students) and the FacAd come into play and take the help of the institute hospital.


Interview with the Director, Part 2: Professional Counselling Services

You can look through the other parts here: Part 1, Part 3, Part 4In the second part of this four-part Interview with the Director, Prof. Bhaskar answers questions regarding the level and quality of professional counsellors institute provides and the challenges in availing of their services.

How far is IIT Madras complying with the Anandhakrishnan report?
We have adopted it, yes. We are completely compliant with the report. They specify a certain number of counsellors , but we determine the number of professional counsellors on payroll, based on utilisation.

How many professional counsellors do we have, as of now?
I’m not sure about the number as of now, but we subject the numbers to review every time we renew the contract, and change them depending on the level of utilization. We see whether students are having to wait for an appointment, and if they are, we increase the number. If they aren’t, then there is no point in getting counsellors who will remain idle. Similarly, for the psychiatrist in the hospital, we look at the appointment calendar to see whether more psychiatrists are required.

Do you think that students are availing these facilities available?
See, we know the numbers (of students availing the facilities) – though I cannot reveal them – and they are not small. Now the question is, is everyone who needs the services availing of them? That is the hard part.  In all this, it is a probability game: even if 95% of the students who need the services avail of them, the 5% who need it but don’t are the issue, right? So the numbers who are availing are quite a big number, but if you ask me whether everybody who needs it is availing — that I don’t know. That’s the big problem… If somebody doesn’t want to speak to the institute staff, we have a psychiatrist and counsellors, who are working together and refer students to each other. The psychiatrist is recommending students to the counsellor and the counsellors are recommending those students who they feel need medical attention to the psychiatrist.

Is there a way to measure the quality of the services given? How does the outsourcing  process work? Some students are dissatisfied with the quality of services…
See, the issue is this – in this case, it is difficult for us to get feedback from the users, because even we, as in the administration, don’t know their identities. The counselling staff don’t reveal to us the names of the people who are going to them  except under particular circumstances. In cases where a person is referred to the hospital for medical care, records do exist, but they are only available to the Chief Medical Officer. It isn’t as if this data is published or even shared with us — even for hospital records, privacy is maintained. We can then only get feedback from somebody who might complain to us about the service.
Also, there aren’t too many sources of such professional counsellors in Chennai — it isn’t as if there are plenty and we can choose between organizations that offer this service, unlike, say, in the case of mess catering. I suspect the counsellors coming here might be variable in competence and quality, so it is possible that somebody has met a counsellor who asked something inappropriate, and it is possible that somebody met another counsellor who was very good. There’s limited choice, so the approach we take is that if they are not reliable, in terms of availability and so on, we take serious action. But if they are reliable and there are complaints of this kind, we usually forward the feedback to the agency. The agencies also need to train their people better. Our feeling is that the system is not so well established in the country and the city that we have plenty of choice, though we have some choice that wasn’t available 20 years ago. There are a few agencies and we depend on them, because we can’t recruit a counsellor from any place.
This issue of how well they are doing counselling is one that comes up for us every time we renew the contract – the number of people availing the services and how well they are doing. The number of people is easy;  we ask the counsellors – they don’t have to give names – but the number of people who came to see them and we also know if people are telling us that they aren’t able to meet a counsellor. We know that the number is sufficient if nobody is waiting to meet the counsellors and that is ok right? As far as quantity is concerned, we have no limit – we can go on increasing the number as much as required. Quality issues, though, are a little tricky – they can only be based on informal feedback like this, because we can’t contact all the people who went and ask “Did you like it?” because we don’t even know who they are.

You mentioned earlier that some students withdrew from the professional services provided. Is this the cost that we have to bear for seeking outside expertise?
We do not think this is the reason why they withdraw; the CMO tracks as to why they drop out out. Sometimes we seek expertise outside the institute and pay, and sometimes we do not — these issues arise because some expertise is not available with the consultants we have here. I know of a case where the boy was asked to go to a clinical psychologist and there was six hours of interviewing to figure out where the problem was. If the psychiatrist within the institute wants a clinical psychology assessment, then he will refer the student to a clinical psychologist. If we find that there are a lot of such cases, then we will bring a clinical psychologist here, but for a rare case, we cannot do that. Whatever happens, payment is not the problem — we always find money. Sometimes the problem is emotional, and the students stop going to the psychiatrist. That is a part of the problem as some would feel there’s nothing wrong with them.

PART 3 :

Interview with the Director, Part 3: Dealing with Academic Pressure

You can look through the other parts here: Part 1, Part 2, Part 4.

Academic stress is often seen to be high in elite institutions like IITs. In the third part of this four-part Interview with the Director, Prof. Bhaskar answers questions regarding the extent of this stress and how the recent curriculum changes  are designed to reduce stress.

Whenever a suicide happens, does the administration do further analysis of the incident after police inquiry and investigation? What are the kind of problems that students usually face?
Yes yes, we look into it very closely for every case — in fact, more so than the police. The police look at it from the angle of establishing the nature of the incident. We look through the academic record, attendance records. We ask the professional counsellors if this person has been coming for sessions. We check with the hospital records. There have been many cases where the situation has been very serious and the student has been given necessary help. This kind of analysis definitely has to be done. In fact, one person who has a good picture of the range of problems students face is the MITR advisor. Sometimes people go to the hospital and then they opt out — they stop taking their medicines and visiting the doctor. Then we try to use the student counsellors to encourage them to continue. When some of them refuse and stop their medication, there is nothing we can do but keep a close watch on them. Another dilemma is deciding when to inform the parents. Some of these students might have problems at home, so we cannot simply call their parents; this might actually worsen the situation. In case of all other issues such as substance abuse or poor academic performance we can go to the parents and tell them, “Look, your child isn’t doing so well here, you could come over and help him/her out maybe?” But in these cases, where there might be problems at home, we cannot simply approach the parents. Ultimately, the Dean (Students) and Dean (Academic Courses) end up spending hours to figure this out, and it has helped before.

On a more personal point of view, where do you think the problem lies?
There are a variety of reasons — what we see in certain small fractions is that it is biological, genetic, clinical. The feedback from MITR is that clinical cases are easier to handle — when we know it is clinical, medication can be given and it works. Academic pressure also is not a very difficult issue to handle. There are one or two cases we have where they are simply not interested — they don’t want to do engineering and are forced to study here. These are relatively easy to handle but takes up a lot of time — in each case the Dean(Academic Courses) has to spend hours.
The ones that are difficult are the ones where personal problems exist, related to family, relationships or just the student growing into adulthood. These are where the counsellors have a lot of work; these are the ones that often withdraw. At this point, observing the student becomes important. If the family situation is not good then it is very difficult; we can’t rely on the family thereafter. Or if the student is very unstable because of a relationship or has recently lost a friend, you have to talk to the student, reach out to his friends, talk to the student counsellor — these are the cases where a lot of time is spent. This is emotional stress caused by personal matters. Going back to my own time as a student, when, unfortunately, there was a suicide, it was because of a personal matter. Academics appears to be the deciding factor though. When you are in a terrible situation, you can’t study; it will manifest as a nagging sensation. The person will find difficult even the subjects that he/she found easy in the past. The despondence becomes very bad, though the problem is not there with academics and lies elsewhere.

Since we are implementing the new curriculum task force recommendations, is there anything in it that will help reduce stress among students?
In the new curriculum design, we have the guideline that unless the department can make a strong case, we would like to limit the number of courses in any semester to five. We used to have six and seven earlier, but now, only a few departments have been allowed to offer 6 courses any semester, and they have had to fight for it in the Senate. That means 15-20 hours of instruction per week, and the new credit system does not allow more than 60 credits per semester, so students cannot be expected to work over 60 hours a week. The new method of counting credits accounts for the time spent studying outside the class too, and not just class hours. This means that students have about 7 hours a day for purposes other than studying, given that they sleep 8 hours a day, and don’t have to handle chores like cooking. This is also beneficial to students who need more time to study. Time management was the first thing the Task Force took up — some professors assume that the students do only their course and nothing else, so we decided that the number must tell what you expect from a student. Now, most lectures will be in the morning — in the afternoon, there will be, at most, two labs, and otherwise, they will be free.The increase in the proportion and number of electives that are free also means that students can do learn what they like.

Do you think the new system will work to reduce the academic stress on students?
The other source of stress in academics is exams, and this comes up in the Senate very frequently. There are recurring debates on whether quizzes or mid-semester exams are preferable, whether quizzes should be made two hours long, and so on. This is an ongoing process, and we are always open to ideas from the students. I think we are duty bound to do some evaluation and prepare a CGPA and a transcript, and it is only fair that we do it, but we are open to trying new ways of doing this, within reason. One bit of student feedback we got this time from the condolence meeting held in the EE department was that CGPA-related stress is very high, because now everybody is aware that CGPA determines one’s career and other things. I’m not sure what can be done about this…see, we don’t really do relative grading in the high end – if everybody does well we are quite happy to give everybody As and Bs. It is only in the low end that we set the cut-offs and determine a pass percentage. So I don’t see how relative grading is a factor. But obviously, some students are not able to do well and that is affecting them. It is fair enough that every student wants a decent CGPA to get a good job, but I don’t know an easy way out of this. These are things that we have to worry about.
One thing I want to add is that the Dean (Courses) also plays a big role in the academic stress. In the institute, we rarely terminate a student’s registration. This Dean’s office discusses with the FacAd and the HoD and puts struggling students on a reduced course load track. So, we have very few students who have that kind of trouble — usually, with a combination of reduced load and assistance, they are all managing, even if some take 6 years.

There is the opinion that the Comprehensive Exams for the PhD students are a huge source of stress, and it is solely based on the student’s guide. What do you have to say about this?
Every department has its set norms with regard to the Comprehensive Exam. Also, comprehensive exams are usually given in a bunch — the student can take up a few papers, write the tests and attend the viva. If one has done the exams well, then the viva may be easy — it’s just about asking them about their research and how they plan to go about it. If he/she’s on the borderline in the written examination, we give another chance for the candidates through the viva-voce. There will be some questioning, but this might help bring out the confidence via oral examination in case the candidate didn’t do well in the written exam. In all departments there are slight variations to this. I don’t think any Comprehensive Exam is determined by the guide. Comprehensive Exams are stressful — all of us went through it. There is no stress-free path; after that, one has to worry about publishing papers, and so on.


Interview with the Director, Part 4: Curbing Drug Abuse, Freedom of Speech and Lack of Communication


In the final part of this four-part Interview with the Director, Prof. Bhaskar explains why there was no official communication to the students from the Administration regarding the recent unfortunate events and his opinion on the subsequent fallout between students in the mainstream press. He also outlines admin’s views on drug abuse and ways to curtail it.
You can look through the other parts here: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3.


Why didn’t the Administration inform the General Student Body about the recent suicides through a formal e-mail?
A formal communication is not possible unless the police give us the cause of death. We cannot officially provide all the information the media is providing. It may appear like a suicide, but the administration cannot say so till it is confirmed by the police – the FIR usually states unnatural death and not suicide as the cause of the death can only be established after the post-mortem.
So, my statement which was released to the press within 3 hours was that we have unfortunately lost a student in the hostel, he passed away, the police are investigating, we are cooperating, and we requested them not to reveal the personal details of the student. This is why there were few photographs of the student, I think. Next time, I will also release the same internally – my concern then was that this statement would look like a partial statement compared to what the media is already putting out – this was the only issue, and this is unavoidable.

But this has led to a feeling among the students that the admin has failed to inform them, and is instead trying to suppress the news…
Not at all — it is the admin that calls the police and the parents, spends time with the parents until the whole thing is done, takes them to the mortuary and arranges for the vehicle and for whatever arrangements the parents require. We comply at every point. A condolence meeting was also organized in the hostel and the department of the student, as the department and the hostel will have the people who are closest to the deceased. These measures were taken for the previous incident too, as they are, every time we lose a student.


What is your opinion on students approaching the media to voice issues about the institute?
I think it is the right of every student to state his/her opinion and this must be respected. At the end of the day, it is upto the publishing platform to verify the facts and IIT Madras will not interfere in this unless it is absolutely necessary.
On the other hand, campus news bodies like T5E must be factually accurate as, for the external world, it represents IIT Madras. It doesn’t matter whether T5E runs from the institute servers or not.* Of course, again, the freedom of expression and opinion must be respected and protected and students are free to express their opinions, remaining factually accurate.
* T5E is currently hosted on an external server.  


Substance abuse is prevalent in the campus to a large  extent. What measures is the administration taking to curb drug abuse?
See, again, it’s not just drug abuse – as per the law, you can’t even drink in the hostel. So what we try to do is to keep a watch in the hostels — we have also our squads which do surprise checks. What else can we do? There is a very thin line separating such measures and some kind of police state – checking everybody, frisking everybody… We don’t want to do that because the number of people who are doing this isn’t that large; a large number of our students are going about doing their own work. So we have to balance freedom with intrusion.

What action is taken against the offenders?
We usually give them a warning and one punishment. The action, I would say, that seems to be logical in such circumstances is, if you don’t follow the rules of the hostel, don’t stay in the hostel. We don’t see any logic in punishing them academically — giving them a bad grade doesn’t make any sense. If you can’t abide by the rules of a system, don’t stay there, and that’s what we are trying to do. Many students don’t prefer this, and so the punitive action has some power of deterrence. Of course, they try to come back with friends — we are very familiar with these issues. This is one of those things that you can’t curb by any stringent action. You have to keep acting, you can sort of prevent it from exploding, but you can’t bring it to zero — it’s very difficult.

Does the admin take measures to ensure that students are aware of the possibility of surprise checks?
Yes, we put up notices in the hostels, every time a student is caught.

Are there provisions to help somebody stay away from drugs or get de-addicted?
Of course. Cases of substance abuse brought to the counsellors usually get recommended to the hospital, and there are well-known protocols for de-addiction — even for our employees. We send them for Alcoholics Anonymous or refer them to organizations in the city whose help they can take — there are employees who have been rehabilitated. It’s easier for students, actually — it isn’t a bad addiction. We don’t have too many students who are addicts. Usage, yes, but not addiction. The problem isn’t how much addiction – it’s about abuse and this is one of those things where we have to balance the amount of intrusive action that you take. You have to keep doing it so that it doesn’t explode but you can’t also put up such a regime which will hurt the normal life of others – this is a balance you have to strike.

Townhall with the Director, Prof Bhaskar Ramamurthi, is being organized by MiTr, SAC and T5E for students to voice their concerns on, and provide suggestions to improve, the condition of mental wellness within the Institute.
Date: Thursday, 12/11/15
Time: 6 to 8 PM
Venue: Central Lecture Theater
Don’t miss it!

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Mumbai: Social stigma keeps troubled IIT-B students away from counselling - Mid Day

By Shreya Bhandary |Posted 10-Nov-2015

- See more at:

A recent article in Insight, the premier institute’s student newspaper, highlights that while the provided facilities need improvement, students too need to take the initiative to ask for help

The Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay (IIT-B) has stepped up its efforts on providing counseling to students suffering from depression or anxiety. IIT-B made changes to its existing counseling mechanism after observing two suicides and one suicide attempt over the last year.

Even so, the social stigma of undergoing counselling still keeps many students away from the counsellors. A recent article in Insight, the institute’s student newspaper, has highlighted that while the facilities provided by the institute need improvement, students too need to take the initiative to ask for help.

“It’s sad to see that students still don’t approach counsellors when they first start feeling depressed. The competitive atmosphere gets to most of us, especially, since we stay far away from our home. It is important to be vocal about our problems,” said Mihir Kulkarni, one of the editors of Insight.


The article highlights the loopholes, not only in the institute but also in the student community. The mentorship program introduced by IITs across the country — where senior students mentor freshers to help them cope with pressure — has brought about some change.

“The good thing is, that there’s more acknowledgement of stress and pressure amongst the students now, which is very important. But beyond that, we need to address this problem proactively,” added Kulkarni.

Need more counsellors
However, all this still cannot suppress the need for more counsellors on board. At present, IIT-B has two full-time and one visiting counsellor, who visits student hostels and talks to the students regularly. With close to 10,000 students on campus, the three counsellors handle quite a handful, as they meet about 7-8 students everyday.

“The number of students a counsellor sees on a daily basis can vary. But the number of students connecting with the counsellors is showing a steady increase,” said Shivani Manchanda, counselling coordinator at IIT-B. She added that with the new steps taken by the institute, more and more students are sharing their problems.

IIT-B says
While officials at the institute stated that students have not yet approached anyone demanding more counsellors, they didn’t deny the problem. “With three counsellors on board, we are reaching out to as many students as possible. We are still looking to hire more counsellors.

We are already in the process of hiring a fourth counsellor and are also taking active steps to ensure a total outreach program,” said Soumyo Mukherji, student affairs Dean at IIT-B. He added that the management is also in talks to introduce a new counselling center code to the student hostels, but it is yet to be approved.

Recent suicide/attempted suicide cases at IIT-B

June 2015: A 23-year-old MTech student, pursuing degree in Earth Sciences, tried to end his life when he was alone in his room at Hostel 5. His mates claimed that after the initial attempt to commit suicide by hanging failed, he popped some pills. He was immediately rushed to the IIT-B Hospital and later to the Hiranandani Hospital in Powai, where he finally recovered.

May 2015: Jitesh Sharma, a third-year chemical engineering student, was found dead on the terrace of one of the hostels on May 2. The 21-year-old was reportedly suffering from depression and had been undergoing counselling for over six months. His body was found around 7 pm on the terrace of Hostel 15-B. He resided in Hostel 8.

September 2014: Aniket Ambhore (22), a fourth-year student pursuing a dual degree in electrical engineering, died after falling from the sixth floor of Hostel 13. Aniket was immediately rushed to Rajawadi Hospital, Ghatkopar, where he was declared dead on arrival. It is still unclear whether it was an accident or a suicide.

The PAL system
At IIT-Gandhinagar, the institute started a Peer Assisted Learning system (PAL), three years ago. This system appoints mentors and groups that help students deal with stress and pressure. While helping freshers, the system also involves compensation for the seniors, who get paid Rs 125 per hour.

- See more at:

Friday, November 6, 2015

Saraf seeks report on student suicides in Kota - TNN

JAIPUR: Higher education minister Kalicharan Saraf on Wednesday sought detailed report on suicides by students this year in coaching hub Kota . The report is to be submitted by the district collector of Kota. Saraf has also asked the collector to prepare an assessment report from the ground about stress levels among the students enrolled in the coaching institutes.

"The department will study the cause of every suicide which will help us in formulating a much needed regulatory policy for coaching institutes in the state. We have asked the local administration of Kota to suggest ways to put an end to this extreme step while talking to all stakeholders," said Saraf over phone. Since May, eight students have committed suicide in Kota as they failed to cope with the pressure of clearing competitive exams like JEE-MainsAdvanced and AIPMT.

Saraf admitted that in the absence of any policy or regu latory body, state has very limited role to play in regulating coaching institutes. To expedite the process of coming up with a regulatory body, the department has sought guidelines for coaching institutes from states like Telangana, Andhra Pradesh and Maharastra.

Sources in the department say that neither they are aware of the exact number of coaching institutes nor they have any idea about the number of students enrolled here. 

"Once the regulation will come into force, the state will ha ve its say in deciding the coaching hours, fees etc for institutes," said a government source.

Kota has over 1.25 lakh students from outside Kota enrolled in coaching centers for cracking seats in IITs and Medical colleges . The suicides have not new phenomena in Kota with four suicides recorded last year. However, this year eight has already recorded since May has highlighted the dark side of the Kota coaching industry.

    Wednesday, November 4, 2015

    Soon at All IITs, a Programme to Help Students Deal With Stress - NDTV

    Soon at All IITs, a Programme to Help Students Deal With Stress

    All India | Written by Rohit Bhan | Updated: November 03, 2015 00:19 IST

    Besides company, the Peer Assisted Learning system also involves compensation for the seniors. In IIT Gandhinagar, they get paid Rs. 125 per hour.

    GANDHINAGAR:  When he got into the prestigious Indian Institute of Technology in Gandhinagar earlier this year, the tremendous pressure to succeed almost got the better of him, first year students Shubham says.

    It was then that the University's Peer Assisted Learning system or PAL came to his help. The system  appoints mentors and groups that help students deal with stress and pressure.

    "The first time you are in a different setup away from your family, you find yourself facing enormous pressure. That's when I got help from my senior guide. My confidence grew as I could share my limitations with him. Now I feel pretty much settled here," said Shubham.

    The system was introduced at IIT Gandhinagar three years ago. Now, with incidents of students' suicides and mass failures on the rise, the Human Resource Development ministry has asked all IITs to introduce it.

    "After you come here, everyone starts from a zero level. You have to focus on studies which bring in pressure. You have to give examination in English and the medium of instructions is English. So you have to deal with pressure on various fronts," says student mentor Sreenivasan.

    Besides company, the system also involves compensation for the seniors. In IIT Gandhinagar, they get paid Rs.125 per hour but other IITs are free to decide their own compensation.

    "We started off with six mentors and about 12 students and in the last three years we have now reached about 20 mentors assisting 42 students. More importantly the exercise has given a sense of fulfilment to the seniors," said Assistant professor Kabeer Jasuja.

    Garima Chaudhary, a student, said, "When you don't have peer guide you reach a point where you can take an extreme step like suicide. But that's where a mentor's role is important. He or she can come in at that point identify the problem and check the students from taking the extreme step."
    Story First Published: November 02, 2015 23:32 IST

    18-Year-Old Preparing for Medical Exam Commits Suicide in Kota - NDTV

    Others | Written by Harsha Kumari Singh | Updated: November 03, 2015 08:36 IST

    The suicide rate in students has gone up by 60 per cent this year.

    Kota:  In Rajasthan's Kota, nine students preparing for the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) and medical exams have committed suicide in the last five months.

    On Sunday morning, that number went up to 10. An 18-year-old, who was preparing for the All-India Pre Medical Test, was found dead by her hostel warden.

    Anjali Anand was unable to pass the exam last year and had moved to Kota for coaching. In a letter addressed to her parents, she said it was unlikely she would be able to pass the exam even in her second attempt.

    Her parents who came from Moradabad in Uttar Pradesh to collect their daughter's body were distraught. Anjali's father Ashok Kumar blamed coaching institutes for not providing proper counseling to students.

    "To fulfill their dreams parents take loans, sell assets so we can do something for our children but when we lose our children like this then what can I say, all I can do is request coaching institutes to have proper psychiatric counselling," said Mr Kumar.

    Despite the suicide rate, which has gone up by 60 per cent this year, the coaching centres are still to put into place a combined 24-hour helpline to counsel students.

    In a meeting two months ago, coaching centers like Allen, Bansal and others had promised to get together and put in place a 24x7 helpline for stressed students, but that is yet to happen. The administration too has not moved forward in putting into place guidelines whereby coaching centers will have to provide psychiatric help 24x7.

    "The administration is planning to bring out a policy and frame guidelines where by coaching institutes will get together and provide a helpline and proper trained psychiatric and medical counselling," said Kota Superintendent of Police Sawai Singh.

    In the meantime, clearly the pressure is something students are finding it difficult to cope with. In the IIT exam last year, of the 14 lakh candidates who appeared for the exam only about 10,000 made it.

    The medical exam is equally tough, more than five lakh candidates appear for it, only about 46,000 actually make it.

    Story First Published: November 03, 2015 00:22 IST

    Sunday, November 1, 2015

    LAN ban in IITs no longer purposeful - Pagal Guy

    31 October 2015

    Colleges banning internet access in this age of globalisation is a rule that still baffles many heads.  Most IITs impose internet restrictions for students in their hostel rooms, a rule that was brought in place almost a decade ago. Today, this rule has lost its significance owing to the pool of alternatives for internet use like smartphones, dongles, etc. Several student protests have been suppressed and institute authorities now no longer consider them an issue of concern.

    IIT Bombay was the earliest among the IITs to impose an internet ban. A misfortunate incident of campus suicide is what led to this rule. In the following years, other IITs like IIT Madras, IIT Delhi, and IIT Guwahati also followed suit. However, this rule is only restricted to the student hostels, while internet is available 24/7 in the department labs, libraries and institute buildings. The idea behind imposing such a law is more or less the same throughout IITs. In IIT Guwahati, internet is banned from 2 AM to 5 AM so as to ensure students get adequate sleep at night and it is banned through the day from 8 AM to 5PM as an incentive for students to attend lectures instead of staying in their hostel rooms. Prof Soumya Mukherjee, Student Affairs Dean, IIT Bombay says, "We cannot restrict how a student uses his personal belongings like mobile phones. From the institute's end, our efforts are towards disciplined use of time."

    Students in these institutes have debated against this rule for being redundant. "We have smart phones with 4G internet and iPads with dongles. We achieve fruitful tasks even in the wee hours of the night using these tools," says Sanchit Kalra, a student at IIT D. Another student, Chaitanya Sangani, from IIT Guwahati, says, "The ban hasn't led to any increase in attendance during lectures. In fact we can still browse Facebook or Twitter during lectures through our phone from anywhere in the campus." As long as students can fulfil their internet needs through smartphones and personal internet facilities, they are not affected by the LAN ban.

    While social networking is allowed during the hours internet access is available, certain other websites with inappropriate content have been permanently banned throughout the campus. Nitish Reddy, a student of IIT M, says, "There was a time when internet was only available in cyber cafes or though wired connections. Newer channels for access have now been developed in India. Certain other sites that have been banned can be accessed through our personal devices."

    On the other hand, IIT Kharagpur students are still alien to the idea of a ban on internet access. "We enjoy unrestricted internet services 24/7 across the campus. I don't see what issues such a ban can resolve, since the college's network is no longer the dominant means of internet access," says Ayudh Datta, a student of IIT Kgp.

    Any student or professional today will crib about the inconvenience restricted internet access causes in fast running lives. Students staying up all night for their projects or exams have to work from the discomfort of institute labs and libraries rather than the comfort of their rooms. "We usually hurry our college work or postpone it to avoid spending the night alone in the department labs," says Chaitanya.

    Despite such wide disregard for the rule, IITs are still persistent about its fruitfulness. The plan to impose a ban on only LAN and not on personal internet is a huge flaw in its implementation. It is time to evaluate the purpose of this law in view of development in accessibility to internet over the years.

    Saturday, October 31, 2015

    Alarm bells by Prankti Mehta Kadakia - Hindustan Timese paper

    • 28 Oct 2015
    • Hindustan Times (Mumbai)
    • Pankti Mehta Kadakia

    CAUSE FOR CONCERN With two students suicides at IIT-Madras in the past four weeks, a look at prevention methods across Indian campuses, when peer counselling is most effective, and what institutes can do to help

    ‘But one day, I cracked. I bunked morning class, was crying in my room… I took a towel, tied it to the fan, tied a noose, apologized mentally to my parents and sister, and tried to hang myself…’


    After dealing with two suicide cases in four weeks on the IITMadras campus, student Pankaj Joshi (name changed) wrote about his struggle with depression for the institute’s online campus magazine, The Fifth Estate, on October 20.

    ‘Every day was pure agony’, writes Joshi. ‘I would sit clueless, watching others answer things that seemed like alien language to me. Class after class, slot after slot, I would just sit…lost. People at my internship didn’t respond to any mail…my mind was going into overdrive – what did I want to do with my life? Was I squandering my IIT opportunity?... Which top university will accept me with an early-8-point CGPA (which was threatening to go even lower)? I pretty much hated every second of every day.’

    The two suicide cases, of MTech student Nagendra Kumar Reddy on September 21, and BTech student Rahul G Prasad on October 19, have raised several questions. No official data is available on IIT suicides, but according to a blog called Suicides at IIT, run to raise awareness about the issue, 76 IITians have committed suicide since 1981 — 15 in 2014, and seven in 2015, so far.

    “In the past five years, at least five students I know have chosen to end their lives — we do not know how many failed in their attempts,” says Arya Prakash, an integrated MA in English studies student at IIT-Madras. “What has gone wrong in an institution that claims to provide professional counselling services as well as peer-to-peer counselling, where the Guidance and Counselling Unit was renamed ‘Mitr’ [friend]?”
    “A large problem is that students and administration both assume that the suicide victim had difficulties in dealing with academic stress or with handling a relationship. As the blame is shifted to the individual, there is little reflection on the academic structure as a whole,” adds Veena Mani, a PhD scholar in humanities and social sciences at IIT-M.

    While IIT-Madras is in the spotlight currently, similar cases prevail at various other IITs, and to a lesser degree, institutes across the country.

    “Even at a social sciences institute like ours, we have had a few cases of suicide,” says Amita Bhide, professor and dean of the Centre for Urban Policy and Governance, Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Chembur. “Now, the stressors on students are so many — in addition to family and relationship issues, they are trying to build a career, pay off education loans, get placements that befit expectations, etc. Unfortunately, some students buckle under this pressure.”

    At the IITs and in medical colleges, academic stress is a large factor for suicides, say experts.

    “Suicides at institutes like the IITs and AIIMS make news, but there are cases at various other colleges that may not,” says Shobhana Mittal, attending consultant psychiatrist at the Cosmos Institute of Mental Health and Behavioural Sciences (CIMBS). “This is a vulnerable time for students, when their roles and hormones are changing, along with their environment.”

    “Most undergraduate BTech suicides (ages 16 to 21) are due to academic stress, the inability to cope and the shock of failure and its ramifications,” says Ram Krishnaswamy, a retired engineer and IIT-M alumnus, who runs the blog Suicides at IIT. 

    “Add to this sexuality issues, relationship breakups, financial woes, drug and alcohol issues, and above all, mental health issues as depression and anxiety.”

    A study published earlier this month by CIMBS says that 51.6% college students in Delhi have anxiety problems; 17.8% admitted to having suicidal thoughts; 64.6 % experienced depressive symptoms; 51.8% students felt overburdened by the academic pressures and career uncertainties.

    “While this was a survey of 500 students from across Delhi’s institutes, considering that they come from all over India, it is indicative of students across the country,” says Mittal. THE ROAD AHEAD While most colleges — including the IITs — have strong counselling services, not many students willingly come forth to seek them.

    “We have measures already in place — we provide counsellors, psychiatrists, even informal services from student volunteers — but the suicides still happen,” says Bhaskar Ramamurthy, director, IIT-Madras. “Students need to be forthcoming and avail of these services too. There is a stigma attached to seeking counselling.”

    “We are taking several measures to try and remove this stigma,” says Soumyo Mukherji, dean of student affairs at IIT-Bombay, which saw a suicide case in May this year. “These suicides are a symptom of a larger, deeper problem, and we need to tackle the root cause of depression.”

    I I T- B, Mukherji says, is working on hiring more counsellors, with different kinds of specialisations. They will also have student mentorship programmes, where a senior mentor can report a junior’s sudden fall in performance, erratic behaviour or other tell-tale signs.

    “After recent suicides, the college has put in constant efforts to raise awareness about the issue. We've had stress management workshops and there has been an increase in the number of counsellors. Maybe the professors showing a little more empathy towards students could help bring a change," says Nilesh Bansod, a fourth-year mechanical engineering student at IIT-Bombay.

    According to Krishnaswamy, institutes should take a serious look at measures taken in universities in the UK, US and Australia, “instead of trying to reinvent the wheel”. These include prescribing self-help books, online counselling programmes, guided meditation, and regular counselling.

    “Academic pressures in the west are ruthless too, but the circumstances are different,” says Mukherji of IIT-B. “There, students can take 10 years to graduate if they want. In India, especially at the IITs, you are using government resources. It is impossible to afford students who take only one or two classes a semester and spend years on campus, when there are so many more waiting for that seat.” PEER COUNSELLING KEM Medical College in Parel has workshops for students and faculty on suicide prevention. They are taught to identify signs of depression, how to get a depressed student to talk, and so on.

    “This has really worked for us — we have seen so many cases where peers report depression in other students,” adds Shubhangi Parkar, dean at the institute.

    At IIT-Delhi, similarly, students are coached to bring to notice signs of depression in their peers.

    “Recently, minor exams were coming up and a student disappeared,” says SK Gupta, dean of student affairs at IIT-Delhi. “His friends immediately reported this to the authorities.”
    However, some students are concerned that peer counselling is not entirely effective.

    “Mitr’s method involves peer-to-peer counselling, and only some cases are referred to professionals. I am doubtful about this, as firstly, untrained people — or those with little training — are dealing with deep psychological issues,” says Veena Mani, a PhD scholar in humanities and social sciences at IIT-M. “I have been told that students find it hard to trust Mitr volunteers, as most of them are moralistic in their approach, and students feel that they will tell professors about issues they think can affect their grades.”

    “Frequent checks should determine whether they are being implemented effectively,” adds Prakash of IIT-M. “For instance, if the volunteers are going to be judgmental about things like relationships or alcohol, it defeats the purpose.” 
    (With inputs from Damini Priya)

    Friday, October 30, 2015

    15-year-old IIT aspirant commits suicide in Kota - Hindustan Times

    • HT Correspondent, Hindustan Times, New DelhiUpdated: Oct 29, 2015 15:47 IST
    More than 1,00,000 teenagers head to coaching institutes in Kota every year with the dream of cracking IIT or medical exams. (AH Zaidi/HT Photo)

    A 15-year-old IIT-JEE aspirant allegedly committed suicide in Kota, police said on Wednesday, the third student to end his life in the Rajasthan city famous for its coaching institutes.
    Police said that the body of Vikas Kumar Meena was found hanging in his hostel room in the Talwandi area by his grandfather who had rushed here from Bhilwara after calls to his mobile phone went unanswered since Tuesday.

    SS Godara, the Kota superintendent of police, said that a three-page suicide note has been recovered from the room of the student in which he has cited domestic problems and his unwillingness to pursue engineering as the reason for suicide.
    “The student has mentioned about the death of his mother in the past, about the remarriage of his father and his grandfather and father’s prodding him for pursuing engineering studies due to which he was upset,” he said.

    The student, hailing from Chandadand village of Bhilwara district and studying in class 10, have joined a coaching institute last year and was preparing for IIT-JEE.

    The father of the deceased is an armyman and posted in Manipur.

    Lakhmaram, the student’s grandfather, said the boy had no study stress and was upset since the death of his mother in 2006 and also the accidental death of his cousin few years ago.
    The coaching institute’s authorities said that Vikas was an average student.

    Earlier this month, two other students, both pursuing coaching classes, had allegedly committed suicide in the city, underlining a growing trend which experts attribute to performance pressure on youngsters.

    Every year, more than 1.5 lakh student from across the country enroll in the 40-odd coaching institutes to prepare for the highly-competitive entrance examinations for different professional coaches.

    National Crime Records Bureau data show that 45 students committed suicide in Kota in 2014, a rise of more than 61 per cent from 2013, though some of the cases are also said to be due to failed affairs and other reasons.

    Recently, several coaching institutes jointly launched a round-the-clock helpline to offer counselling, track callers suffering from depression and provide assistance.

    Thursday, October 29, 2015

    Getting things right about suicides in IITs - the Hindu

    October 27, 2015

    The Hindu

    A view of IIT-Madras. Photo: M. Srinath

    Innovative steps are the need of the hour, not a fault-finding outcry without any empirical backing, says the writer.

    Two suicides in a month at IIT Madras is an unspeakable loss not just to the families of the deceased students but also to the society at large. As a student then, and an alumnus now, these incidents have always disturbed me a lot, and I believe that it is a cause of concern to everyone both inside and outside the institute.

    I write this article in response to Arya Prakash’s ‘What has gone wrong with IIT-Madras?’ published on The Hindu Web Exclusives (23 October, 2015). I would like to express my disagreement with the author’s arguments not only on the grounds that the analysis is unsubstantiated, but also on the concern that such a misconceived approach to the problem would lead us nowhere close to the solution.

    The recent suicides must be seen as a part of growing trend among all the elite institutes in the country, particularly the IITs. Various social, psychological, and systemic problems must form the context of our discussion. The author dwells upon the system of grading which needs an informed and comprehensive debate. One needs to question whether it leads to a sense of ‘relative deprivation’ despite having high intellectual quotient as Malcolm Gladwell puts it. At the same time, whether absolute grading is any better for the students in terms of ameliorating them from academic pressure and the sense of relative deprivation, needs a thorough examination. This should point us towards an imperative need of reviewing our grading system so that quick and slow learners have a fair chance to excel, and the system is not causative of erosion of confidence.

    Instead of making a case for the review of grading system, the author simply puts the blame on the relative grading system as the cause of ‘a sense alienation’ among students. This is too reductionist, for loneliness and alienation are simply not a function of academic performance, they can as well stem from various psychological, social and personal problems. The author perpetuates the orthodox approach to associate every problem faced by the student to academic pressure alone. This is counter-productive to address the problem because some students experience loneliness and a sense of alienation despite having a good academic track record.

    On the issue of the academic pressure faced by the backward caste students, a recent on-campus survey by Insight, IIT Bombay shows that students from SC/STs and OBCs end up experiencing more academic pressure than the general category students. Unfortunately, no study has been conducted so far to examine if there is any correlation between suicides and social backgrounds of the students. While this remains a point of concern, one should also acknowledge the efforts being made by the administration to change the situation. IIT Madras offers a basic English course, and recently a ‘Life Skills Course’ was introduced which is first-of-its-kind to enable students manage themselves better. Also, apart from class-room learning, students have access to almost all the courses on the NPTEL platform, which provides an opportunity for going through the lectures as many number of times as needed. Almost all the IITs have professional counselling services in one form or the other. Perhaps, the Professors should also be sensitised to ensure that learning experience in classroom is inclusive and responsive to needs of all students. Such innovative steps are the need of the hour, not a fault-finding outcry without any empirical backing.

    The author alleges that MiTR (Guidance and Counselling Unit) of IIT Madras has been counterproductive by turning into a spy agency without any lack of respect for the principle of confidentiality. The Lead Core of MiTR with whom I’ve spoken completely refutes this allegation. Similar counselling services are offered in other IITs too, and they have made a positive impact in many students’ life. The danger of an outright and unsubstantiated allegation on such services is that it prevents the students from approaching these organisations when they are desperately in need of help. In an article titled ‘Depression - An Elephant in the Room’ of Insight, IIT Bombay, the counselling coordinator laments on the perception of a ‘stigma’ associated with seeking counsel. Allegations of these sort only compound that stigma with an added sense of fear. These counselling services must be further strengthened by inducting professional psychiatrists who can render full-time services on campus. Moreover, involving students who have recovered from depression in the counselling services would make the process more effective.

    On the issue of attendance criteria, how logical is it to argue that asking a student to attend classes is putting excessive academic pressure on him or her? The attendance policy of IIT Madras is guided by the idea that being a residential institute, the potential of classroom learning experience must be fully tapped. Exemptions to this criteria are available on medical grounds, even if one falls short of 85% attendance. All that a student needs to do is to produce a medical certificate which the on-campus hospital provides. I think by saying that the “students are thrown out of campus”, the author has exaggerated the issue unnecessarily. The stringent rule of asking a student to vacate the hostel applies only when one fails to secure minimum attendance in more than two courses in a semester. Moreover, a thorough background check is done on the student before taking such a decision. Clearly, the criteria and the process tell us that the spirit of the rule is not to pressurise the students but to set a deterrent against absenteeism.

    As pointed out at the outset, this phenomena of suicides in elite institutions is a great loss for both families and society. Only a correct diagnosis can help us find a correct treatment for the problem. Being residential campuses, premier institutes like IITs should ensure that the campus ecosystem has the capacity to positively shape individuals’ personal and social life without confining their focus to easing academic pressure. Neither a fault-finding exercise demanding some ‘radical change’ without any constructive solutions, nor the treatment of such cases as personal problems which have nothing to do with the administration are justified. One needs to be pro-active and constantly engage in dialogue with all the stakeholders to ensure that the most transformative phase in an individual’s life doesn’t lead to a tragic end.

    The writer is a dual-degree holder in mechanical engineering from IIT-M and a founding member of the discussion group The Colloquium. He is currently preparing for his civil service exams.
    This article is in response to an earlier article by an IIT-M student on the atmosphere at the campus post the suicides - What has gone wrong with IIT-Madras?

    Keywords: IIT MadrasIIT suicidesMitrstudents counsellingIIT JEEpremium institutes

    Breaking News on Tushar Yadav IIT Guwahati

    Breaking News on Tushar Yadav IIT Guwahati

    Please click on Link to watch Video

    Monday, October 26, 2015

    26 student suicides in 3 yrs at premier institutes - Academics India .com Tribune Chandigarh

    26 student suicides in 3 yrs at premier institutes
    Aditi Tandon/TNS

    NEW DELHI September 25 : “Why should we torture them now when we didn’t torture them 15 years ago?” KS Venkatesh, professor of electrical engineering at IIT Kanpur, quips when asked what was driving students to suicides in the premiere institutes of India.

    Between 2008 and 2011, IITs, IIMs and National Institutes of Technology (NITs) together reported 26 student suicides; 16 of these at IITs alone and seven at NITs. This Friday, IIT Kanpur saw the fifth suicide in the last three years; the 10th in its entire history. After scribbling a telling note - "I am tired of IIT" -- across his hostel room wall, 18-year-old Mahtab Ahmad ended his life by hanging from a ceiling fan.

    Venkatesh, who studied at IIT-K and now heads its faculty association, mourns the terrible reality of students succumbing to academic pressure, but attributes much of this stress to rising expectations of parents and JEE’s mechanical coaching. 

    The coaching trains students to crack entrance exams, but fails them when it comes to the real challenge of being an IITian which involves thinking and innovating.

    "I trace much of this to parents who torment their wards for not scoring the top 9 grade. Even during the counselling sessions with JEE crackers, parents ask us what their child’s starting salary would be were he to consider a particular branch. They behave like customers, asking us to show their child’s worth. Naturally, students too no longer come to us for the love of learning. They basically come to make money. It’s time parents start telling children to do as well as they can, not as well as they must," says Venkatesh.

    He also warns of growing depression among M Tech students who stay on for research instead of jumping into jobs after four years of graduation.

    Eighty per cent IIT suicides in the last three years have involved undergraduates UGs. Causes of stress vary as an IIT Delhi student explains, "The first year is tough as you are getting to absorb the system where professors naturally demand performance from you. That’s the nature of IITs. The stress of scoring is the highest in the first two years. In the final year, peer pressure is at its worst as you face the fiercely competitive campus placements. Here top scorers are major gainers; hence the pressure on low scorers."

    On May 2, an M Tech student from IIT Madras, Nitin Reddy, committed suicide after being asked to repeat a course in the final year. This meant losing the job he had landed. IIT Madras later concluded that Nitin was depressed, but his father approached the National Human Rights Commission for justice.
    UB Desai, Director of IIT Hyderabad, say the systems - such as counselling units - are in place, though more psychologists are needed. The institutes also appoint faculty advisers for freshers to help them understand the new place. But all this has not always helped. In IIT Bombay, for example, the counselling unit failed to identify regular visitor Srikant Malapulla (21) as a depressive. He later committed suicide.

    Alarmed by the surging cases, IIT Council recently decided to set up a taskforce of directors to study the problem which Prof Sanjay Dhande, Director, IIT Kanpur, describes as a "social scourge". He wants the media to stop glorifying the IITs and NITs as the only quality institutes. "Turn the arc lights to other unsung institutes; ease the stress on IITians," he appeals, asking parents to tame their expectations.

    "Students must also realise they now have more freedoms without responsibilities. There are distractions like cell phones and the internet. These issues require introspection considering changing moral values and lifestyles," he says.

    An IIT-K panel constituted to look into the spate of suicides had earlier suggested an end to single-room hostel occupancy system and suggested that students share the rooms. They also said ceiling fans should be replaced with pedestal fans and internet speed should be reduced to prevent unhindered web access in the institutes. The logic given was constant internet use left students too tired to concentrate on lessons.

    The new taskforce, directors say, will give fresh suggestions. Meanwhile, the IIT faculty admits they have been unable to attend to students the way they used to. Since 2007, the intake at all central educational institutes increased manifold following the 27 per cent mandatory OBC reservation. "At IIT-K, the student teacher ratio used to be 8:1. It is now 16:1," Venkatesh explains.

    In a lighter vein, he even suggests that ragging must be allowed in small, decent measures to ensure that seniors talk to juniors and inter-personal ties build. "Look at our students today. Each one is an island, each one a loner," he says.
    (Courtesy : The Tribune, Chandigarh)