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Thursday, June 16, 2011

107 - 09th May 2011 - Yet another IIT suicide - Deccan Chronicle

Anxious parents do a balancing act between expectations 
and fear of losing their child to academic pressure

On Wednesday afternoon, Nitin Kumar Reddy, a final year mechanical engineering student from IIT, Madras committed suicide.

Nitin left a Facebook message on the wall that read: “I fought hard but lost.”

There is more to that final post than what meets the eye. It is not just Nitin.

In the past five months three students from the same institution (including V. Anoop from the same department) have ended their life. Faculty members and officials say that such incidents cannot be attributed to academic pressure alone, but call for immediate attention.

“This is a complex issue that needs to be addressed. No one can say it’s because of academic pressure. There could be several reasons,” says M. Govardhan, dean (students) at IIT-M.

Academicians and educationists feel that students are aware of the pressure they have to handle while they are at such an institution.

“It is a known fact that studying at IIT is no easy task. The students who are part of that institution are self-motivated and are aware of the academic expectations. Moreover, every student may be facing personal and cultural problems as well. The education system cannot be blamed,” says E. Balaguruswamy, former vice-chancellor of Anna University.

Nitin’s department-mates, appeared sad yet strangely indifferent. Maybe because of their exams. They say it’s all about the survival of the fittest.

“It’s exam time and all of us are trying to perform well. We come here to clear the course and such incidents are unfortunate. While some students work with a clear-cut timetable, some may lose their confidence mid-way,” says a second year mechanical engineering student on condition of anonymity.

“I have never felt the pressure of studying at IIT. But it is the survival of the fittest. Entering this prestigious institution is a task on its own. But students have to be responsible and not lose hope,” says a first year M-Tech student.

Nitin’s life changed course when he approached the head of the department to learn that his course needed to be extended by six months. About this incident, the HOD said that the department was still in shock.

“We are all very upset because of this incident. If we lose a student, it’s traumatic but nothing can be done about it,” says S.P. Venkateshan, HoD. of mechanical department, who informed Nitin that he wouldn’t be graduating in May along with his batch mates. “He visited my office twice and that’s when I interacted with him,” says Venkateshan.

Counselling could to an extent help students manage the stress and pressure. Asked if the system is in place at IIT-M, Govardhan says: “We have recently appointed a qualified, fulltime counsellor who is extremely helpful. Students are allowed to approach the department with their problems. Once in a while, the dean of HoDs also interacts with the students so as to make sure they’re comfortable.”

Reasons may be many and yet to be identified, but the frequency at which students commit suicide is alarming and worth an investigation.