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Friday, January 19, 2018

Students and Dalit organisations across the country led demonstrations in the memory of Rohith Vemula. - News Click

Newsclick Report 17 Jan 2018

Image Courtesy: Mubashir Hameed

Two years back on this day, January 17, Dalit research scholar Rohith Vemula committed suicide in NRS hostel in University of Hyderabad. After protesting for two weeks against his suspension along with four other Dalit students, losing hope, Vemula took the extreme step. Outraged over his demise, students of the University led a collective struggle demanding the arrest of University’s Vice-Chancellor P Appa Rao, the then MHRD Minister Smriti Irani, the then Central Minister Dattatreya and ABVP activist Susheel Kumar who were influential for the suspension meted to the five Dalit students. The struggle transformed into a nationwide students and Dalits movement which brought to the forefront, the discourse on the condition of Dalit and marginalised students and the functioning of the Educational system in the country.
However, when the central government appointed Roopanwala committee claimed that Rohith Vemula is not Dalit as his father belonged to Vaddera caste (OBC) and his Mother belonged to Scheduled Caste- Mala community, no police action was taken against the accused.
In his suicide letter, Vemula wrote “My birth is my fatal accident…. The value of a man was reduced to his immediate identity and nearest possibility. To a vote. To a number. To a thing.” His letter explained his struggles in his life for being born as a Dalit who eventually became an Ambedkarite student activist.
Hyderabad University’s Ambedkar Students Association has organised ‘Rohith Shahadath Din’ in Vemula’s memory on his second death anniversary. Students have taken permission from the campus authorities to allow Radhika Vemula along with six others including Kancha Ilaiyah inside the campus and address the students gathering in Savitribhai Phule auditorium. Last year, on the same day, Telangana police had arrested her when she had tried to enter the campus.

After her son’s demise, Radhika Vemula has been raising her voice against Dalit oppression and has become a part of the Dalit movement in the country.
Students from Jawaharlal Nehru University, Delhi University, IIT Madras, Osmania University, Tata Institute of Social Sciences and other state and central universities have participated today in demonstrations, rallies to commemorate Vemula’s death anniversary.
Sunkanna Velpula, one of the five suspended students along with Rohith Vemula wrote on his Facebook wall, “I don’t know whether we have the right to remember you Rohith because we failed to deliver justice for your sacrifice in Hindutva ruling. But one thing is true… We Missed You. There is no one to replace you. You are Unique.”
Rohith Act:

Framing and promulgation of a ‘Rohith Act’ which can safeguard the students from marginalised sections in Indian Universities was another main demand from student communities after Vemula’s death. While various political parties, student organisations and social scientists have suggested various drafts for a separate act in Rohith Vemula’s name, however, it has not seen the light of the day in the current BJP-led central government.

India’s elite IITs have a plan to fix their gender gap—but will it work? - Quartz


Still a cause for concern. (AP Photo/Aijaz Rahi)

"Indian students, teachers and others listen to a speaker during a protest against the arrest of a student union leader of New Delhis Jawaharlal Nehru University, in Bangalore, India, Thursday, Feb. 18, 2016. Scenes of protest that rocked a New Delhi university this week spread across the country Thursday, with students and teachers from cities including Bangalore, Kolkata and Chennai joining demands for the release of a student leader arrested on sedition charges. (AP Photo/Aijaz Rahi)" title="">

January 18, 2018 Quartz India

The scales at India’s most prestigious engineering colleges tilt heavily, and not surprisingly, towards men.

Currently, only between 8% and 9% of engineering students are female.

To fix this imbalance, the ministry of human resource development has directed all 23 Indian Institutes of Technology (IIT) to ensure that, beginning this year, at least 14% of their seats went to women. Subsequently, the IITs are to add at least 550 seats solely dedicated to female students, the Economic Times newspaper reported.

By the end of this decade, the IIT Council is aiming to pull the ratio up further, enrolling at least one woman student for every four men.

The IITs have been working in this direction for a while now.
Back in 2011, they waived the application fee for women to encourage them to take the entrance test. They have also reportedly been considering awarding merit-based scholarships to female students, besides waiving fees.

However, these steps may not be enough.
Often, the gender disparity becomes apparent even before students enter the exam hall. The number of male candidates that appear for the Joint Entrance Exam (JEE) is nearly double that of female aspirants. They also have a much higher exam clearance rate of over 6%, compared to 2% for women.
The larger issue is that women have constantly lagged behind , courtesy decades of deep-seated discrimination. Often, girls end up dropping out of schools either due to a lack of basic facilities like functioning toilets, or because of being pulled into doing household chores. By the time they turn 18, some 32% of girls are no longer enrolled in the formal education system compared to 28% of boys, according to the Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) (pdf) for 2017.

Even during the preparatory stage of their IIT tenures, women, unlike men, are actively discouraged from travelling to distant places and living in hostels while getting coached for the entrance exams.

In 2016, while up to 2,200 women secured a spot to study at the IITs, less than a third actually enrolled. Many choose not to owing to safety concerns.

Pooja Goyal, who cleared the IIT entrance exam in 1992, attended a convent school that did not even have a mathematics teacher for girls. Once at the institute, Goyal was one of the 13 women in her chemical engineering class of 300 at IIT Delhi. The gender divide distorted her very sense of belonging. “The boys did not know how to interact with girls. There were 10 hostels for boys on one side of the IIT Delhi campus, and there was one hostel for girls on the other end. And all the cultural activities took place on the boys’ end,” Goyal told Quartz in 2015.

“Once women enter campuses, there needs to be a much more inclusive approach to their educational experience. Gender-based curfews and restrictions must be lifted, “manels” during fests and conclaves must be discouraged, and initiatives must be rolled out to encourage woman students to participate in all aspects of the engineering life,” Sairee Chahal, founder of SHEROES, told Quartz. SHEROES is an online community for women seeking career opportunities and mentors.
However, the struggle doesn’t end even after securing the revered degrees.

India’s office culture doesn’t really accommodate women, who are mostly forced to constantly juggle work and home. For many, marriage and childbirth can shelve careers. In some instances, the pressure ends up in tragedy. For instance, accomplished IIT scholar Manjula Devak allegedly committed suicide at the age of 28 as she could not escape archaic traditions like the dowry sytem.

So getting women into the IITs may be a first step, but it needs to be so much more than just opening the gates wider.

HRD sends manual to curb student suicide - DNA

HRD sends manual to curb student 


HRD sends manual to curb student suicide

Kritika Sharma

Student suicide

 Picture for representational purpose

The Ministry of Human Resource Development (HRD) has circulated a manual to higher education institutions in India, asking the authorities to adopt measures listed in the manual in an effort to prevent students from committing suicide.
The preventive manual was distributed to colleges and universities across the country about a month ago.
Early identification of a student's vulnerability, a buddy programme, and a double-blind helpline where both the caller and the counselor are unaware of each other's identity are some of the measures mentioned in the manual.
According to a recent report of the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), over 26,000 students across institutions in India, including schools and colleges, killed themselves in three years -- from 2014 to 2016.
The manual was prepared after a detailed study was conducted across the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) by IIT Kharagpur to understand the reasons that force students to take this extreme step.
The survey found that the pressure of examination and deadlines stresses students most, while they are happiest when they are with friends and have peer support. The manual was prepared after taking in consideration such factors.
The study says that it is very hard to detect early signs of depression in students and only 4 to 5 percent of those who are troubled come for major psychological counselling.
The manual suggests that there should be a multi-modal vulnerability assessment for early identification of depression, institutes should have a wider mental health assessment programme with orientation programmes at every year and level, students should go through strength based personality development, have a buddy system, and have a healthy mix of students in classes, hostels, and the curriculum. The manual has also focused on improving food, nutrition, hygiene, recreation, and the general infrastructure of the institute.
It also says that colleges should sensitise the administration, faculty, the support staff, and the parents. Having a provision of a 24X7 double-blind helplines in institutions has also been mentioned in the manual. Used mostly for psychological counselling, a double blind helpline is something where the caller and counselor are unaware of each other's identity so that they are able to interact with each other in a safe and a comfortable space.
"We have circulated the manual to all higher education institutions. Now, the implementation is completely up to them," said an official from the HRD ministry.
V Ramgopal Rao, Director of IIT Delhi, said, "IITs are already taking a number of measures to help students fight stress. Something like a buddy programme is going on in IIT Delhi wherein senior students visit the hostels in evening to help juniors with studies. Orientation programme is also something that happens in most IITs."
Bipin Tiwari, a Delhi University professor, who is also associated with Equal Opportunities Cell, said, "I deal with student issues on a daily basis, students come to me with all kinds of problems, including personal issues. I feel there is a need for having a more robust mechanism of counselling. A manual like the one that the ministry has issued is a positive step in this direction."


  • The pressure of examination and deadlines stresses students most  
  • It is very hard to detect early signs of depression in students  
  • Only 4 to 5% opt for major psychological counselling

Sunday, January 14, 2018

IIT-Gandhinagar professor’s project selected for Army Day - TNN

TNN | Jan 12, 2018, 08:08 IST

AHMEDABAD: What can your eyes reveal? A lot — if reviewed by the right technology. MindEye, a project developed by Uttama Lahiri, a professor at IIT Gandhinagar, has been short-listed from the Army Technology (ARTECH) Seminar in New Delhi and will be shown to PM Narendra Modi on Army Day (January 15).

The project, measuring eye-movement, works on cognition concepts and identifies persons suffering from depression. The initiative is aimed at identifying soldiers with depression and suicidal or violent tendencies arising from it. 

Prof Lahiri told TOI that the idea stemmed from her patented technology called 'Smart Eye', which analyzes the gaze through computer algorithms. "Unlike other psychological tests, this screening method doesn't require a question and answer session. A person is asked to be engaged in computerized cognitive activities where they have to look at the screen. The cameras track the eye movement and analyze the patterns to predict the condition. The pilot study on 50 individuals showed encouraging results," she said.

Two other projects from IIT-Gn presented at the event focused on technology for military operations in high altitude. They were an aerosol-based fire detection and suppression system and technology-based rehabilitation for static and dynamic balance for individuals with movement disorders.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Artificial intel tech to counsel people with depression - New Indian Express

By S V Krishna Chaitanya  |  Express News Service  |   Published: 09th January 2018 02:27 AM  |  

CHENNAI: It reads like a scene from a classic sci-fi flick. But it’s not. It is really a human talking to a machine - a machine being built by 14-year-old Indian-origin whiz kid Tanmay Bakshi, who is currently working with IBM on artificial intelligence (AI). The AI machine that he envisages will have brain of its own and play the role of a human therapist diagnosing and counselling people with mental health illness, especially the kids and teenagers.
And there may be good reason it sounds like a movie. Part of the trick is that this machine is learning to converse by analysing an enormous collection of old movie dialogues. Bakshi is using Cornell Movie-Dialogs Corpus to train the neural networks of the machine. This corpus contains a large metadata-rich collection of fictional conversations extracted from raw movie scripts numbering 2,20,579 conversational exchanges between 10,292 pairs of movie characters from 617 movies.

Sharing details about his path-breaking venture ‘E-Therapy’, Bakshi, who on Monday delivered a keynote address before jam-packed audience on artificial intelligence and machine learning organised by E-Cell of IIT Madras, said depression-driven suicides were on the rise and in almost 80 per cent of the cases,  teens who commit suicide give out clear patterns. “In Australia alone, 40 per cent of calls to the helplines go unanswered because of shortage of manpower. This is where artificial intelligence comes in handy. Eight months down the lane, we will be ready with a prototype (proof of concept) that will engage in a conversation with a human and diagnose at least a few types of depression,” he told Express on the sidelines of the event.

Bakshi said the reason why movie transcripts are being used to train neutral networks was if the AI machine can learn and make sense from such huge volume of data, it would be easy to make the machine think and analyse a limited scope like mental illness.

A mobile app is being designed for public to volunteer and share their data. “To design a prototype, at least 2,000 hours of conversation are needed. AI will allow a free flow of conversation between AI therapist and the patient. We are not here trying to replace professional therapists. We are only trying to mimic them to bridge the gap so that a teenager who needs help get it on time just over his/her phone.’’