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Sunday, July 24, 2016

IIT-aspirant Prince Kumar Singh commits suicide in Kota, 12th death this year - Economic Times

By PTI | Jul 23, 2016, 01.03 PM IST




This is the second suicide by a coaching student from Bihar.

KOTA: A 17-year-old IIT aspirant from Bihar allegedly committed suicide by hanging himself from the ceiling fan of his hostel room in Indira Vihar area of the city, police said today. 

Prince Kumar Singh, a resident of Motihari district of Bihar who had arrived at KOTA a month ago, is the twelfth student to have died in the coaching hub this year. 

He was preparing for an engineering entrance exam at a coaching institute here, said Radha Kishan, ASI at Vigyannagar police station. 

No suicide note was found in his room. The body has been sent for post-mortem, he said. 

The deceased boy was also reported to have spoken on phone to his parents in Bihar just minutes before he took the extreme step last night, the ASI added. 

Police have lodged a case under section 174 of CrPC in this connection. 

His attendance record and performance in studies have been sought from the coaching institute's management while his hostel mates are being questioned to ascertain the exact reason behind the step, Kishan said. 

This is the second suicide by a coaching student from Bihar. 


On July 5, a medical aspirant identified as Nikhil Kumar (20), from Bhagalpur, Bihar was found hanging in his hostel room in Kunhadi police station area of the city.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

What The Suicides At IIT Tell Us About Where We're Going Wrong - NDTV


What The Suicides At IIT Tell Us About Where We're Going Wrong
Rukmini Bhaya Nair

A strapping youth walks into my office. I know him from one of my classes. He's gifted at Mathematics, has a talent for argument and a love of heavy metal music. Satpal (name changed) also has caring friends who have contacted the Dean of Students, his parents, me. They've noticed a change in his behavior. "He's disconnected, ma'am", they tell me simply. 

Satpal himself is far more articulate and his words have stayed with me. "Those pearls around your neck," he says, "they're on a thread, right? All together. Imagine the string broken, the beads scattered on the floor. That's how my mind feels." Although what Satpal is suffering from is not simple depression, his metaphor is illustrative of how skilled students are today at describing their own symptoms. 

The youth of this country are, in effect, sending our planners and politicians a strong message. But is anyone listening? 

Even if we limit ourselves to a brief roster of some 2016 deaths alone, there seems to be real cause for alarm. In January, Rohith Vemula's on-campus protest suicide at Hyderabad, accompanied by an extremely eloquent note explaining the causes of his angst, constituted the proverbial "wake-up call". 

Later in the year, on June 1, a quiet, former student of IIT Kharagpur, Mainak Sarkar, did the unthinkable: he murdered his wife at home in America and then drove several thousand miles to shoot his PhD supervisor in  Los Angeles. He followed these shocking acts by turned his handgun on himself in a final gesture of silencing. 

38-year-old IIT-Kharagpur alumni Mainak Sarkar killed his estranged wife Ashley Hasti in June this year

Last week, at IIT Madras, two women took their own lives on campus, one of them a student. 

How do we read the connections between these varieties of tragic on-campus Indian suicides? Is there, in Satpal's words, a "string" that links them - or not? Of course, the circumstances were diverse and we must be careful not to homogenize differences of gender, class, caste, geography and a myriad other factors. Each death is as individual as the life that it ends. That said, we must take cognizance of some pretty alarming nationwide statistics, especially given our uniquely populous young demographic.

In 2011, WHO declared India the "most depressed country" in the world. Their case is convincing and blows many myths. Contrary to expectations, for example, "advanced" nations like the Netherlands and the US have rates of depression that, at 30% of the general population, are almost double those in "developing" countries like China where it is about 12%.  

India, however, bucks the emotional trend as it does the economic one. In this respect, India appears more like a developed country than a developing one. A conundrum. But the resolution to this odd, oppressive puzzle may well lie, prima facie, in actually linking these twin factors of an economic "high" and emotional "lows". 

It's as plain as pickle is spicy to even the most casual of culture-tasters that Indian society as a whole is undergoing unusually rapid social change in these tumultuous first decades of the 21st century. Large-scale urbanization is now juxtaposed in our social experience against a distressing landscape of rural desertion and farmer suicides; we are everyday witnesses to the powerful centrifugal forces of regionalism pulling away from any simple centripetal narrative of nationalism; and, simultaneously, we find Constitution-backed reiterations of gender, caste and religious entitlements being wholly undermined by mounting evidence of real-life mob-rule and medieval-sounding diktats from community "leaders".

Rohith Vemula, a Hyderabad University Dalit scholar, committed suicide in January

Most of all, media rules. Images of devastating violence, including barbaric beheadings and BMW mow-downs, regularly appear onscreen cheek-by-jowl with titillating visions of glamorous life-styles and magic celebrity status. Facebook has become the new stage for the performance of life and death sagas.

In all, we seem to have a classic death-wish scenario here, where those delicate supple strings that have long held the marvelously composite civilization of this subcontinent together are stretched so taut that they are in danger of snapping. 

Can we really expect our population, many of whom have come of age only in the last couple of decades, to be blithely immune to these enormous stresses, both virtual and lived, local and cosmo? 

These are generations in the 15-45 age-range. All the campus suicides I mentioned earlier fall in this category. Statistics tell us that, in 2012, 68% of all suicides in India occurred in the combined age-groups 15-29 and 30-44. That is, there were about 46,000 or 34% suicides in each bracket, amounting to 92,000 or almost a lakh. Moreover, over 80% of these suicides were literate. This is cause enough for alarm but it still does not take into account another worrying set of figures that relates directly to the recent IIT Madras suicides, one by a research scholar, the other by the wife of a faculty member. 

Severe depression is held to be a fairly reliable predictor of suicide and the rate of depression among Indian women, able and educated, is steadily rising. In quite a few cases, including at IIT Madras, there are children left behind who are also sometimes "at risk" as a result. Women are at the heart of family, of an emotional economy. If this half of our adult population is becoming increasingly vulnerable, and we cannot get to them effectively even on sites as protected as premier university campuses, we should be very concerned indeed. A 2015 study by three women in the "Indian Journal of Psychiatry" underlines this exact point when it quotes from the WHO report, stating that "the burden of depression is 50% higher for females than males."

How do we as a society relieve this 'burden of depression", especially among women whose main causes of depression in India still stem from family pressures and social stigma, howsoever educated they are? I'm one of those old-fashioned optimists who believe that we can - and must - tackle this hydra-headed monster directly. If we look away, we are doomed. If we look within, however, we have a chance of winning against the odds. This is because the precise complexities of subcontinental social relations have long bred courage, resilience and empathy for others. No one embodies these sophisticated virtues better than the average Indian woman. That is why we need to ensure her well-being. She is the best insurance we have against the present death-wish plaguing this country, literally from Kashmir (reported to have terribly high rates of depression and hopelessness) to Kanyakumari (located in a state with one of the highest rates of depression in India).

Over the years, various people have drawn attention to this lethal combo of aspiration and excitement, alienation and despair that signals danger among India's young. Chetan Bhagat profiles the suicide route in his telling short story "Cut Off". Likewise, suicide was an explicit theme in my book 'Technobrat', written with my IIT students nearly 20 years ago. The magazine 'Week' also devoted a whole issue to "Depression" as long ago as the year 2000 where it profiled the models Madhu Sapre and Manpreet Brar's struggles with depression. I have since returned to these matters in my NDTV columns and elsewhere as have others whose opinions are weightier. But "the authorities" appear unmoved. Wherefore all the fuss? After all, India's current death rate is very respectable: just one per person.

(Critical theorist and writer Rukmini Bhaya Nair is a professor at IIT Delhi. She is the author of several academic books.)

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed within this article are the personal opinions of the author. The facts and opinions appearing in the article do not reflect the views of NDTV and NDTV does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Pressure at home to drop research tied to suicide - NYOOOZ


Summary: Maheshwari (34), doing research in Chemistry, was found hanging dead in her hostel room at around 5 pm on Wednesday. Meanwhile, G Vijayalakshmi (47), wife of an Assistant Professor at IIT-Madras, also committed suicide on Wednesday in the campus quarters. While it was believed that a suicide note was recovered from Maheswari’s room, police officers denied the claim. 

CHENNAI: It could have been family pressure against continuing studies that forced P Maheshwari to commit suicide in her hostel room on Wednesday, say police investigating the death of the post-doctoral research scholar at IIT-Madras. She had very recently visited her family in Puducherry and had returned to the campus only on Tuesday.

 Maheshwari (34), doing research in Chemistry, was found hanging dead in her hostel room at around 5 pm on Wednesday. She was married to Pandiarajan, who is an HOD in a private college near Puducherry, for 12 years and the couple have a 10-year-old son. The father and son are living in Puducherry. 

Based on inquiries with family members, disharmony in family is suspected by police to be the motivation as they had objected to Maheshwari living separately to pursue her research. “A relative of the victim told us that her family scolded her for not staying with them and taking care of the child,” said a police source privy to the case. However, the family members, speaking to Express on Thursday, denied the version and said Maheswari did not have any issues with them.

While it was believed that a suicide note was recovered from Maheswari’s room, police officers denied the claim. However, police said that they had recovered a broken cellphone from the room and were collecting details on the calls made by her on Wednesday. Maheswari had been staying in Chennai for the last one year to pursue her fellowship at IIT-Madras. She had very recently visited her family in Puducherry and had returned to the campus only on Tuesday. Meanwhile, G Vijayalakshmi (47), wife of an Assistant Professor at IIT-Madras, also committed suicide on Wednesday in the campus quarters. 

Two Suicides in a Day at IITM

Two Suicides in a Day at IITM

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Four suicides in a year: What is wrong with IIT Madras? - Financial Express

Four people including two students and a research scholar have committed suicide on IIT Madras campus since September last year. The latest deaths took place within three hours on Wednesday, raising serious questions over the premier institute's functioning

By: Rajeev Kumar | New Delhi | Published: July 14, 2016 1:25 PM

The institute this year was ranked first among several other similar research and teaching institutions in engineering.

Four people including two students and a research scholar have committed suicide on IIT Madras campus since September last year. The latest deaths took place within three hours on Wednesday, raising serious questions over the premier institute’s functioning

Police suspected “family issues” could have forced two women — a 34-year-old post-doctoral scholar, P Maheswari, and Vijaya Lakshmi (47) — to commit suicide on Wednesday. Earlier, two B Tech students — Rahul G Prasad (22) and N Nagendra Kumar Reddy (21) — had killed themselves in October and September 2015 respectively.

Police sources reportedly said that Laxshmi, wife of a teacher on the campus, was depressed and she had tried to kill herself earlier also. But not much was clear about Maheshwari, who was married and had a son.

In a statement, the institute said, “IIT Madras reports with deep sadness the death of a post-doctoral research scholar in the campus. The scholar’s family has been informed. The institute extends its deep felt condolences to the family and the near and dear ones of the scholar for the unfortunate, untimely and devastating loss.”

However, one cannot stop oneself from wondering if there is something wrong with the institute. In past, there has been several reports claiming that multiple stresses on the campus lead students to commit suicide.

Among the reasons floated for Rahul’s suicide last year were a failed relationship and anxiety about placement, Indian Express reported in September last.

Antariksh Bothale, an IIT Bangalore graduate points out in a Quora post: “Suicide is a complicated thing. It looks like a random incident to an outsider, but it is usually the denouement of a long and complicated story.”

The institute this year was ranked first among several other similar research and teaching institutions in engineering.

Among several pointers including “competitive atmosphere”, “veneer of apathy and general indifference and financial issues”, he says, “There’s the additional complication of the skewed gender ratio. As a freshman you joke about it until it stops being funny, and as a senior you just resign to your fate, but the truth remains that lack of sufficient interaction with the opposite gender can contribute to overall stress.”

Writing about the various reasons leading students to commit suicide, IIT Madras alumni Dileep Patchigolla says on Quora: “The expectations could be quite high when one enters an IIT.”
While there is a “peer pressure” what adds more pressure, he says, is the “the sheer number of talented guys around you. Other top colleges too have quite bright students, but the number of such students is higher in IITs. So the chance of failure is higher in IITs compared to other top colleges.”

Police detain protesters outside IIT-Madras on Tuesday. (Source: PTI photo)

Sharing his experience on the campus, Dileep writes, “…during my stay in IITM, I saw several people getting project extensions at the end of their final year. So they couldn’t finish their graduation in the stipulated time and had to stay longer. This would mean they lose their jobs they got in campus placements. This has infact resulted in the suicide of a person I knew.”
Apart from the multiple stress, some students also get alienated during their stay on the campus due to change in character of students and the entry of first generation learners.
Quoting an MA student, Indian Express said, ” “Even professors who would stand for rights and equality conveniently avoid Dalit students or those who come from poor backgrounds as a delay in completing a thesis or projects would affect their careers too. So many teachers don’t think it is useful to help these students; instead they prefer the best ones. All these realities strengthen the alienation of a section of students who eventually fail to convince themselves about their goals and purpose of life.”

Central Lecture Theatre at IIT-M. (Source: Facebook)

Not only the suicides, the institute has been embroiled in several controversies since the last year.

Here are some of them:
  • In May last year, IIT Madras was in the news for for banning Ambedkar Periyar Study Circle (APSC), an independent student body, which triggered a social media campaign and widespread protests. The decision was taken following an anonymous complaint that the student’s body was trying to spread “hatred” against Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
  • More recently the institute was again in the middle of a controversy for organising a closed-door conference on ”Swadesi Indology” led by NRI writer Rajiv Malhotra.
  • On Ambedkar Day celebrations this year, the institute had enforced strict rules.
  • In February this year, the institute reportedly issued a circular banning all kinds of “political activity” because that is “against the apolitical nature of the institute”.