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Saturday, July 20, 2013

207 - Suicides at IITs - Musings of Dheeraj Sanghi

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Every year, 4-5 students are ending their lives in the IIT system. Given that the total student population in the IIT system is between 40-50 thousand, we are losing one bright young life for every 10,000 students every year. This is a serious cause for concern.

When any tragedy occurs, the first and foremost question that everyone has is: "Why did this happen." And when such tragedies happen as often as have happened in the IIT system, it is natural that people will want to know the reasons. Unfortunately, it is not easy to find the reasons. Each life is unique, and the reasons to end that life are also unique. In most cases, if not all, there are multiple reasons behind such a decision, though one of them may have acted as a trigger on that fateful day. But, if there are so many tragedies, then there must be something common between them. People want simple answers, which they can understand. And if the experts fail to give a simple answer, they will invent one. And hence the common perception that these deaths are caused by academic stress.

And this perception has ensured that the focus of the Institute authorities is on reducing academic stress, and less attention is paid to the "real" issues. When someone takes away his/her life, and a question is asked what have you done since the last such incident, you can not just say that we are trying to do things that will increase interaction amongst the students, even though that may be the most important thing to do. You have to tell how you have reduced academic stress since last such incident, because that is what most people understand as the reason.

IITs are a competitive place. The admission to IITs is the most competitive exam in the world, for which many students study for 3-4 years, and even drop one year after passing 12th class to prepare for IIT admission. The competition to perform better than average in such a group can be very intense, and someone who is used to be amongst the top few in his/her school for 12 years would feel stress on realizing that s/he is performing worse than average in this group.

If I look at the curriculum at IIT Kanpur (since I know more about it), we have less courses than whatever I know of curriculum at various NITs, we have less contact hours, we fail fewer students, we provide opportunities to recover from failure by offering summer courses, and so on. We have a lower graduating requirement (in terms of grades) than any NIT. (From 2011 onwards, one only has to pass all courses with a 'D' grade to get a degree.)

A large number of changes have happened in IIT Kanpur in the last 5 years in response to these questions about academic stress. We teach less - the working weeks have been reduced from 15 to 14 in a semester, and additional days have been given to spread the exams (to minimize the probability of two end-semester exams in a day), as well as ensuring that there is a gap of 2 days between the classes and final exam. We have reduced class timing from 55 minutes to 50 minutes, to further force a reduction in course content in every course, and enable a more leisurely movement from one class to the other, enabling the students to ask a few questions from the instructors at the end of the class without the stress of getting late for the next class. The number of fail grades is an all time low, around 2.5 percent of all grades in the Institute. I wonder if there is any university in India with a lower fail percentage. The graduation requirement has been reduced from a CPI of 5.0 to 4.0, basically allowing anyone passing all the courses to get a degree. Again, I wonder if there is any university in the world which gives degrees at "D" average, like we do. The students don't even have to bother about showing an "F" grade on their transcript. They are allowed to withdraw from a course just a week before the end-semester exam with no mention of such a withdrawal in the transcript. We have changed the rules for Academic Warning, Probation and Termination (for under-graduate students) so that only a fraction of students will get into these states. We have started giving additional chances to a student whose program has been terminated to explain his/her poor performance, and have re-admitted several such students.

Today, there is no doubt in my mind that the "real" issue causing stress to the students is competition and not the curriculum and academic rules. And hence the solution is to counsel the students to not get into a rat race. They need counseling that a five point someone can have a good life ahead. They need counseling that if they find it hard to cope up with all the courses in a semester, there is no harm in dropping one or even two courses. The stress from peer pressure in the hostels to complete the BTech degree in 4 years is intense. They need to be told that it is alright to be slow and steady and complete the program in extra time. But it is easier said than done. Remember, these are people who are intensely competitive. That is how they got through JEE. To now tell them to not worry about competition is certainly not very convincing to them.

I remember when I was the Department Under-graduate Convener several years ago, I would call each student on Academic Probation, ask them to register for courses which they have already failed once, and they think they failed narrowly (in which they have a easier chance to pass), but they will all want to do CS courses because they could do other courses in summer and still have a chance to graduate in 4 years. I would tell them that they should first focus on getting a few 'C' grades or better on their respective transcripts and get out of this cycle of Warning and Probation, and only later worry about how much time their degree will take. I will then monitor their performance in these courses, and if one is performing very poorly in some course, ask him/her to drop that course, since the termination rules at that time were based on the performance in courses that one did that semester. Again, there would be huge resistance. "I will work hard and make up and pass the course," was a common refrain. I couldn't force them, but if I was spending hours with each one of them, they reluctantly would agree to my advice. I was happy when at the end of the semester, there was not a single CSE BTech student in the termination list, but I became famous as someone whose sole aim in life was to delay everyone's graduation. Most of these students (who were on Academic Probation) felt that they could have passed more courses, that they could have passed advanced department courses, and that my advice held them back I doubt if anyone felt that because of my advice they were still students of IIT Kanpur.

So in my opinion, the real challenge is to convince someone to go slow, and ignore the competition. I recall we used to have a compulsory slow-paced program in the first year based on a diagnostic test. In this program, the student would do a particular course in a slow pace, learning the same material in two semesters, instead of one. One could do slow-paced learning in multiple courses also. The idea was that once the basics have been learnt well, it will be possible to learn other courses easily. But then there was an opinion that a forceful slow-paced program was causing stress. So we made it optional. The number of students choosing this program reduced substantially immediately, and the number of students in Warning and Probation increased, but because the slow-paced program was identified by outsiders as one of stress inducing issue, we could never make it compulsory again, and the numbers kept reducing, and finally we don't have any such program now.

The difference between stress due to competition and stress due to curriculum/academics-in-general is to be understood, and handled properly. If we do not understand this difference and keep reducing academics, we are only going to reduce the quality of education in our top institutions, without improving the experience of our students, and without making any dent towards solving the problem of excessive stress. 

There are other more important reasons why we should not report every such death as linked to academic stress. First, it is simply not true. Suicide is a very complex issue, and one does not take away one's life because of one reason. Even to the extent that one reason is a trigger, academics related reasons are for very few students.

And secondly, if we simplify the reason for suicide, we are encouraging other suicides. The phenomenon is known as "Copycat Suicide." Read more about it at this Wikipedia page. In short, when someone says that a student committed suicide because he had a low CPI of 5.0, it makes the other with CPI of 4.9 think of the same step. But if it is pointed out that suicide has complex reasons, including psychiatric and medical reasons, then the student with a lower CPI does not relate that suicide to his own situation.

And this brings to the most important issue - reporting of suicides. I was browsing the net for information on how to deal with suicides, and came across this site on how to report suicides. It tells us that there has been a lot of research on effect of reporting of suicides on the next suicide, and it is agreed today that it makes a significant difference. I hope our media is aware of it, though the signs are quite to the contrary. If you look at the recent reporting of two suicides this week, the media talked about a possible problem with some relationship as the cause (which itself was not proper, if you agree with the reporting norms suggested by the site mentioned above). But soon after the second suicide, the media was talking about academic stress causing a series of suicides in IITs, completely forgetting that just the previous day, the same newspapers had mentioned a different possible reason for a suicide.

There is no doubt that a lot of people, whether in media, our alumni and other stake holders, are genuinely concerned about 4-5 suicides a year in the IIT system. I only wish that they will report, discuss, debate and talk about the issue sensitively to make a positive impact on the situation, and not a negative one. The current reporting is putting pressure on the institutes to focus on academics, while the need is to look at it from a wider perspective.


Posted by Dheeraj Sanghi at 11:55 PM 

19 comments:

When reading about the issue, I had come across an article (I don't have the link as I had seen it long back), which explained a cause similar to that explained in your blog. It didn't blame the academic structure in itself, but it pointed out that students were not well equipped with stress-tackling methods. It began by pointing out that since most students in IIT, have spent a lot of time with their books and have mostly been toppers in their respective schools. Being put among the best does put them in a place like never before. Those who are not able to perform feel the heat of the competition, which is where the article talked about methods to tackle stress. For instance, the various co-curricular activities that one participates in can be seen as a way of tackling the stress. One might paint, sing or dance to relieve oneself of stress. But, the article claims, that a lot of those who committed suicide didn't delve into such activities in school and are hence unaware of its benefits. Also, students do not learn to share their problems with those around them, which too could help relieve them of stress.

Anirudh said...
Competition may not be just related to curriculum . One also faces competition in extra-curricular activities etc. But I agree with you it's not the course but the feeling of downward spiral that must be pushing the students to take this extreme step .

Saurav Jindal said...
One should also compare the suicide rate in IITs with the average in India. Average for India is 10.5 per 100,000. Which is not very different from the rate at IIT.

http://www.who.int/mental_health/prevention/suicide_rates/en/
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_suicide_rate


Dear Sir,

It seems that your article is pointing mainly towards the most recent suicide, so I'll only talk about that.

It is good to know that termination clauses have been changed in the institute. But the question still remains - "why termination?" on the basis of academics. Especially, why termination in the very first year! Terminating a student simply means that the institute is considering him/her a lost cause rather than dealing with the problem and finding a solution.

Now, you are personally taking the cases of handling the students under warning and AP, but what about other departments? I don't know if there are some set guidelines provided to the departments from the institute regarding how to deal with these termination case students. All I know is there will be a formal mail from HOD/DUGC requesting student to meet them. If the student goes then well and good, else he remains stuck with the problem. You need to realize that the communication gap between the HOD and student will be so huge prior to this email that the student would rarely reach his office. Why not introduce professional counseling or rather involve students. The following is what I shared recently on a social media -
"One solution that came to my mind was the concept of Departmental Student Guides - like the ones we see at the time of orientation. I am sure seniors will definitely volunteer to help their juniors. Even if there is one from each dept, he/she can talk to the under-performers and help them out."

PS : A technical doubt - Are the new policies also applicable to students who were admitted before introduction of policy?

One of the possible drivers for this is the loneliness. When I was doing masters at IITK, there used to be a under-graduate student from my state who is to come and spend time with me. He was a very quite person, doesn't interact with many. 1 or 2 years later he committed suicide. I just failed to understand why he did that from whatever I know of him. But to come to think of it later, I felt, he was a loner and probably something happened and he couldn't bare it.

Also our education system emphasizes on individual performance, while the industry needs people to work in groups.

Thus, the institutes should encourage and have several activities where students have to work in groups on projects. This will force them to interact/network with other students. And even better if the teams are changed with each such group activity. Put focus always on group activity and group performance.

This could to some extent address the loneliness as well as what industry needs look for.

I agree that counselling plays a major role in making people accept failures, small or big.

An year back, I was in Alumni Contact Program. While talking to an alumnus(I couldn't remember his name) regarding his days here at IITK, he was telling that a guy did a suicide attempt and all and then started asking that why these news give such reasons. The reputation of IITs as institutions is because of their degree of excellence of students. Why are these academic reviews doing so! I was shocked at his comment. He is currently working at TCS, America.

Jaya said...
One must not forget to look outside the institute for reasons suicide happens. This latest suicide happened apparently after the parents came to know about the termination and the guy did not think he could face him. He must have felt aimless, but for four months after termination, he hadn't committed suicide. Most people come to terms with the competitive environment inside the institute. Failing is not such a taboo amongst your peers inside the system, as it is amongst your family, neighbours and society back home! Until a young students finds the right support system back there, institute can do all it wants to reduce "academic stress" - stop teaching and taking exams altogether - such suicides can't be averted.

I wrote this three years ago. Unfortunately still holds true - https://jayajha.wordpress.com/2009/08/24/iitk-two-concerns/

Dear Dheeraj,

>> "...to look at it from a wider perspective"

That's how you end the post. However, right while going through the very first paragraph, I (really) happened to get reminded of that other issue to do with suicides. It happened to receive a whole lot of spin in both political circles and media outlets a few years ago. I mean, the issue of farmers' suicides. Then, recently, some last year or so, somebody pointed out (and I forgot where I read it, but do remember that a pretty reliable source was cited) that the suicide rate among farmers, throughout the period of controversy, has actually been lower than that for the comparable bigger population groups (e.g. rural population taken as a whole or so).

So, first of all, I would like to know if the suicide rate statistics could be had for other comparable groups like UGs in programs like medicine, NITs, general undergraduate programs (like BA/BSc/BCom), MBAs, etc. Perhaps, it will help us place this issue in a better context.

Apart from that one bit, I don't seem to have anything further to contribute to this topic. The post, however, did shed a lot of light on quite a few recent developments. Thanks for sharing these.

Ajit
[E&OE]

I am on Facebook, and many students are in my friends' list. I often see a few of them obsessively reading IIT suicide stories whenever they are depressed. I guess many other IIT students do that as well. The media should indeed follow the guidelines for reporting suicide stories, as otherwise the cases of copycat suicide will certainly rise in future.

The basic problem with excessive media coverage about IIT suicide is that students think that dying is an acceptable escape from misery. They forget Feynman's last words: "I'd hate to die twice. It's so boring."

Jaya said...
http://www.iitkalumni.org/Position_paper_suicide.pdf

This paper by some of the alumni proposes some interesting things. I specially like the idea of separating counselling staff from academic staff and more communication with parents.

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On an unrelated note, Dr. Sanghi, could you please consider disabling the captcha on comments if possible. They no longer make captchas for humans!! :) I am trying for a while to post this comment.


Sorry, Jaya, for inconvenience. I was getting so many spams, some strangely worded comments with links to various coaching classes, and worse sites. So even though the comments are moderated, it was a pain to even delete them, since the first few lines would be normal English sentences. So you had to read several lines and then figure out that it is a spam. But I guess I will remove spam during the moderation process.

cipher said...
Dheeraj,

Let us not assume that poor grades causes stress causes suicide. There are other hypothesis, like being depressed causes poor grades causes suicides. According to me, a much stronger and concrete way forward is, get a hotline/helpline - publicize it , remove stigma associated with mental health and let trained psychologists be made available. There is a lot going on in a 20 year old's life - studies, relationships, sexuality etc. Let us not confine this to academics.


sunil said...
In my humble opinion,In most of the suicide cases the reasons are personal and psychological where a person loses the drive to go on and tries to find the remedy to all his miseries in a flash by ending it all. IIT students are also human being and are part of the same society where euphoria of being seen as GOOD is more important than really being GOOD so I don't think it makes a special case for IITians, however sir, I found one para in the post absolutely enlightening , apt and dot-on and this issue should really be addressed by our policy makers

How right you are when you say "The difference between stress due to competition and stress due to curriculum/academics-in-general is to be understood, and handled properly. If we do not understand this difference and keep reducing academics, we are only going to reduce the quality of education in our top institutions, without improving the experience of our students, and without making any dent towards solving the problem of excessive stress.

amber said...
Dr. Sanghi,
I really appreciate you discussing such issues. You have really pointed out a lot of important points. I have a suggestion and a comment about this issue:

Students in India, unfortunately, are accustomed to coaching institutes from childhood. The environment of IITK being very different from high school, students sometimes find it confusing to deal with the situation. Having professional tutors/extra (informal) discussion classes held by people trained for such purposes, for those who are not performing well academically may be a good idea.
Apart from that, there may also be opportunities provided for group discussions with a chosen group leader. The group leader can be a student as well. The group leader may be given incentive to get official recognition from institute and maybe declare award for best group leader. The group leader may not be academically the best, but he/she should be understanding and compassionate by nature. The important point here is that this way students feel part of a group, and get a moral support apart from the academic support.
I have myself had group discussions with friends in my department (Chemistry) near exam time. The exam pressure that develops really gets eased when we are all sitting all in group studying with fun. Also after exam, we know that we are out there for each other.

A comment to which I do not have any concrete solution: In some instances, professors are not very considerate of the weak students. I do not mean by going slow in class for them, or not giving F grade for bad performance. These measures are required to maintain quality of education.
In strong sense, I am referring to situations where a prof. publicly humiliates a student. For that, I feel there should be some mechanism in place where a student can go and complain against the professor.
In a weaker sense, if the prof. shows some compassion and tries to reach the student not performing too well, that may go a long way. If a student, who is considered eligible by the system to do a course is not doing well, there should be sincere effort put in understanding the reasons for it.
I feel that peer pressure of friends plays an important role as you point out. But such pressure from faculty also plays some role.

Thanks again,
Amber Jain

This blog(http://alumniconnect.wordpress.com/2012/08/29/by-the-time-i-graduated-i-had-10-as-and-11-fs/) blog is going viral on facebook in IITK community. I find it interesting, but I am not sure whether it's totally relevant to the present discussion.

Manohar Kuse said...
Had come across this story of an low-performing IITK graduate who had suicidal thoughts but now leading an excellent life.
http://alumniconnect.wordpress.com/


Umesh said...
I agree with the point being made. Suicide does not have a simple answer, it is a complicated thing where different factors interact with each other.
I am really glad about some of the reforms introduced in IITK academic system. Measures like withdrawing from a course, not having the whole series of F on your grade sheet are really good.
And finally, I understand the reason why DUGC keeps asking you to do repeat the course that you failed twice. I agree with the reason in principle but again, the result will be dependent on the individual and perhaps DUGC should explain the reasoning. See the blog post http://alumniconnect.wordpress.com/2012/08/29/by-the-time-i-graduated-i-had-10-as-and-11-fs/. The student's F in TA101 and B.Tech. project was result of what went inside him, rather than his ability. It would have better to listen to him and let him finish TA101 in his final semester. But again, that is an exception rather than the norm.
In relation, any person (not just IIT student) is most vulnerable when the TRUST breaks. No one can do anything in those moments, except his close friends and that is if he is willing to share it with them. The 1st 24 hrs are crucial and if you are supported by family/friends, then your survival instincts kick in. You still need support, but unlike 1st 24 hrs, you are less vulnerable. Again this is a personal opinion and only experience I have is being party to a triangular love affair breakup at one point in IIT.
I do agree with the rat race. The reason for depression isn't the tough curriculum or academics and not even the huge Fs sometimes your professor hands out. It is comparison with others. You compete against some of the best in India and even if you are giving your best performance, you may end up getting a C. What is important is that you must give your best and learn, rather than focusing on just the Grades. I have had courses, where I learned more from a course, in which I had a C than a A. Same way, it is important for professors to focus on teaching rather than announcing at large to class about grades. (Though I agree that lot of times student just cares about grades).
Finally, really thanks Dr. Sanghi for explaining in detail the measures taken by IITK in terms of academics. These are news that doesn't get published by media at all.

I think this problem is due to another cause.The one of starting a rat race and being forced to be a part of it right from childhood and all the credit goes to coaching institutes and parents who actively encourage such culture. These coaching institutes raise the so called standards of students and ultimately make makes them slip into the IIT system when they really do not deserve being in it and many cannot even cope with being in it therefore making the joy of being in an IIT short lived.
It is important to note that people who can cope with such heavy competition present in the IITs and can perform based on their natural talent and not on repetitive magai in the coaching.

And another major point I want to make is that these people do not and cannot take their academics seriously but still expect themselves to pass in the courses because they have no interest to learn the course or excel in a given field and all that they want is a high paying job (mostly non core) to which IITs unfortunately seem to be a shortcut and which seems to be the root cause of the rat race most of the parents are subscribing to without knowing anything about the real interests of their kids.

I realised that people think that IIT preceeded by coaching for IIT is an easy and guaranteed returns path for all those who do not have their path still decided! (but the goal is $$!)

Skartik said...
In my opinion, there should be some mechanisms to vent out frustrations and increase interactions, particularly in times of depression.
For interactions, something of the sort of student confession courts could be created where a selected few could go out and express their grievances.
Also there could be specific places in campus where students could shout and vent out their emotions. Maybe, some sort of shouting rooms could be build on the campus.

206 - Stress buster unit to check suicides at IIT-Kharagpur - TOI

Subhro Niyogi, TNN May 1, 2013, 05.11AM IST

KOLKATA: The Indian Institute of Technology-Kharagpur has firmed up plans to set up a stress bust centre to curb suicides and help students cope with pressures of a competitive environment. To be built on an island in a lake within the campus, the Vivekananda Centre for Personality Development is inspired by the Lotus Temple in Delhi where people from all faiths congregate to pray and meditate.


Speaking to TOI on the sidelines of a conference on workplace stress management organized by Confederation of Indian Industry, IIT-Kharagpur dean of alumni affairs and international relations Amit Patra said the centre would deal with the increasing level of stress among students and faculty.

"Most students who come to IIT are used to being in the top 5% in class all life. But at IIT, everyone cannot be a topper. Typically, 5% are top performers while the bottom 5% pass after the second attempt. The realization that one is no longer in the top 50% is difficult to digest and can lead to erratic behaviour and frustration, sometimes driving the desperate to suicide," explained Patra.
While IIT-Kanpur has the worst suicide record among IITs, IIT-Kharagpur has been recording a fatality each year for the past few years. These are only the number of suicides that succeed; the failed attempts that are many times higher never get recorded. The Vivekananda Centre aims to address the needs of these students as well as others seeking a break from an intensely stressful environment.

"Four years ago, when the IIT management realized that suicide was an issue needed to be dealt with, a counselling unit was set up. But students don't like to go there as they feel they will get stigmatized. Last year, the idea of a meditation-cum-introspection centre came up. The Vivekananda Centre for Personality Development will comprise mediation hall and gallery, where spiritual lectures will be delivered, self study rooms and library. The lake island has been chosen for its serene setting.

An alumni of IIT-Kharagpur has submitted the building plan. The building will be a green one, with natural light and cooling solutions," the professor of electrical engineering said.

Sources said the architecture will be a natural form and remain true to the 'golden ratio' that fascinated mankind for ages. Many of the proportions of the Parthenon, Great Mosque of Kairouan and even the Taj Mahal exhibit the golden ratio.

Construction on the Rs 10 crore project is likely to start later this year and be completed by 2015. While the centre will primarily draw students and teachers of IIT, Patra expects it to become a centre of attraction and tourist interest in the years ahead. Pradip Kumar Ray, professor at the department of industrial engineering & management at IIT, said the current economic situation with a shrinking job market was further increasing stress.

"Like Tale of Two Cities in which Charles Dickens wrote: 'It was the best of times, it was the worst of times', externally the situation seems better with improved technology and physical work environment but internally, everyone is mentally stressed. There is also a conflict between eastern values on which family culture is based and Western values that determine the way offices function. Our homes are society oriented, breed inefficiency and are long-lasting. Offices on the other hand are individualistic, drive efficiency but are not sustainable as they lead to a lot of stress on individual," he added.

205 - IIT-Delhi student commits suicide - TNN

IIT-Delhi student commits suicide
TNN Aug 4, 2011, 11.22pm IST

NEW DELHI: A 20-year-old IIT-Delhi student allegedly committed suicide on Wednesday afternoon inside the institute's premises. The deceased, Dinesh Ahlawat, was a resident of Rohtak in Haryana and was a first-year chemical engineering student.


"We received a call around 5:30pm about the incident. We found the boy hanging by a rope from the fan. We then sent his body for post mortem. Further investigations are on," said a senior police officer.

The deceased had joined IIT around 20 days back, when the session commenced. The police did not find any suicide note in his Zanskar hostel room. Cops said that they are questioning his friends and other hostel residents to find out the possible reason for the suicide. The police were informed about the incident by IIT officials around 5:15pm. The institute's officials told the cops they had no clue why Ahlawat committed the act as he had just joined the institute. "It appears the death occurred sometime between 3pm and 5pm as the boy was last seen around 2:30pm," said a police officer.
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He appeared "to be happy" and showed "no signs of depression". The internal inquiry report on the alleged suicide of an IIT-Delhi student on August 4 has ruled out ragging or academic pressure as the cause behind the incident.

Dinesh Ahlawat (19), a first year student of chemical engineering from Rohtak, was found hanging from the ceiling fan in his room in Zanskar Hostel by a few of his friends.

The fact that the internal inquiry report submitted by a four-member committee on August 11 fails to pin-point the cause of Ahlawat's death has made the case all the more complex and baffling.

However, sources say Ahlawat's reason for taking the extreme step was probably based on a flimsy and false assumption.

"Ahlawat's admission to IIT was provisional as he had failed in mathematics in his Class XII Board examination. It seems he was scared of a similar performance in the compartment exam and he cut his life short before checking his results," an IIT official, who did not wish to be identified, said.
Ironically, it turned out that Ahlawat had scored 90 per cent in the compartment exam.

The CBSE announced the compartment examination results on August 3. Though the results were available online, teachers at IIT believe that Ahlawat did not know his score even till the next day when he committed suicide.
"He was surfing the Internet for almost ten hours on August 3 and a little over three hours on August 4. We scanned the history of websites he visited on both days and not once did the CBSE website figure among them," a source said.
"In fact, what reinforces our belief that he did not know he had scored 90 per cent in the compartment exam is the fact that on August 4, at 4.03 pm, he received an SMS from his sister asking for his roll number to check his result. Within seven minutes of receiving that SMS he killed himself," the source added.

In the absence of a suicide note, the above reasons and the circumstantial evidence have found many takers in the institute.

Suicides at the IITs are not new. This year there have been six suicide cases already; the latest being reported from IIT Patna on Thursday.

Notwithstanding the chain of events which have been put forward to explain away the extreme step taken by Ahlawat, the incident has left many questions unanswered.

For instance, how did a bright student like Ahlawat get zero marks in mathematics in the Board examination? One is also forced to ask why Ahlawat failed to check his compartment results even a day after it was declared.
"It quite difficult to understand how he performed so badly in mathematics, especially when he did pretty well in the mathematics section of the joint entrance examination (JEE)," a professor at IIT-Delhi said.

According to his friends in the institute, Ahlawat had secured rank 1097 in the JEE. Mail Today could not verify this with the institute authorities independently.

Another question that arises is why the internal inquiry report of IIT does not openly point at the compartment exam being a cause of stress to the student.
"We do not have all the information regarding that issue and hence the report doesn't mention it. We're hoping that the police investigation will throw more light on that," IIT-Delhi director Surendra Prasad said.

Read more at: http://indiatoday.intoday.in/story/iit-delhi-student-commits-suicide/1/149772.html

Cops clueless over IIT-Delhi student's suicide 
Posted by: Nabanita M Published: Friday, August 5, 2011, 14:31 [IST] 

New Delhi, Aug 5: An IIT-Delhi student, 20-years old on Wednesday afternoon, Aug 4 committed suicide inside the college premises. The deceased, Dinesh Ahlawat, was a resident of Rohtak in Haryana and was a first-year chemical engineering student. The deceased was a new-comer, who joined IIT around 20 days back, when the session commenced. Though no suicide note was found after his death, the cops said that they are questioning his friends and other hostel residents to find out the possible reason for the suicide. 

The police were informed about the incident by IIT officials around 5:15pm. The institute's officials told the cops they had no clue why Ahlawat committed the act as he had just joined the institute. "We received a call around 5:30pm about the incident. We found the boy hanging by a rope from the fan. We then sent his body for post mortem. Further investigations are on," said a senior police officer. "It appears the death occurred sometime between 3pm and 5pm as the boy was last seen around 2:30pm," said a police officer. 

Read more at: http://news.oneindia.in/2011/08/05/cops-clueless-over-iit-delhi-student-suicide.html
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Shalini Narayan : New Delhi, Sat Feb 11 2012, 09:43 hrs


- See more at: http://www.indianexpress.com/news/iit-hanging-case-father-alleges-ragging-fresh-case-registered/910687/#sthash.ZFW93y2D.dpuf

Seven months after Dinesh Ahlawat, a first-year chemical engineering student, allegedly committed suicide by hanging himself from a ceiling fan in an IIT Delhi hostel, his father has filed a case of abetment to suicide, saying ragging by seniors forced his son to end his life.

Dinesh died two days before his 19th birthday. His father Yashveer Singh, who teaches science at a school in Rohtak, alleged that Dinesh spoke to him twice and complained that he had been ragged by seniors.

When his body was found on August 4 in the Zanskar hostel, police ruled out ragging as a reason for the alleged suicide and said he may have had "adjustment problems and homesickness".

While investigating officers said the case was one of suicide, Dinesh's death remained a mystery since he was found hanging with his hands tied with a handkerchief and legs bound with his vest. Police now say the probe will continue, that the autopsy concluded it was "suicidal hanging" with no external injury marks on the body.

Yashveer Singh appealed before the Saket court, saying he wasn't satisfied with the response he got from the institute or the police. The court directed police to register a case. A case under IPC Section 306 — abetment of suicide — has been registered.

In his statement to the police, Singh said: "Students had to break open the door to get in and lower my son's body. He was rushed to hospital where he was declared brought dead. On 30.7.2011, he told me he was ragged by his seniors. I spoke to him on August 1 and 2 when he spoke to the rest of the family too. Later, I found out that on August 3, seniors had ragged the juniors."
"I strongly suspect that it was because of this (ragging) that my son felt humiliated and took his life," Singh said.

He told Newsline: "My son called me and told me that he would be coming home for his birthday... The college administration has hidden the real issue from us. Otherwise, why was my son's body discovered by three seniors? What were seniors doing in his hostel at that time?"

Shashi Mathur, Dean of Students at IIT Delhi, said: "We are as confused about the matter as anyone else. He was a bright student, a very nice boy. An inquiry committee was constituted which stated that there was no element of ragging. The institute carries out regular sessions on anti-ragging awareness. I lead the team that goes around the 12 hostels and counsel students about the Supreme Court ruling. It is mandatory for students to attend this."

Chhaya Sharma, DCP (South), said: "We received orders from the court under Section 156 (3) CrPc and we have complied with it."

- See more at: http://www.indianexpress.com/news/iit-hanging-case-father-alleges-ragging-fresh-case-registered/910687/0#sthash.VvXX0pL9.dpuf

204 - IIT Delhi student hangs self over failed love - Hindustan Times

Jatin Anand and Mallica Joshi, Hindustan Times  New Delhi, May 06, 2013


First Published: 00:37 IST(6/5/2013) | Last Updated: 00:41 IST(6/5/2013)

Depressed over his inability to converse with a senior whom he was seemingly infatuated with, a final semester student at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Delhi, hung himself from a ceiling fan in his hostel room this past Thursday.

A 24-year-old, whose name is being withheld by HT on grounds of privacy, was from Punjab and was enrolled in the much sought-after computer science course at the institute and had recently landed a job with an annual package of Rs. 18 lakh at global IT giant Microsoft.

He left behind a suicide note, written in Punjabi, which stated that he did not wish to marry or even befriend the woman in question and only wanted to talk to her. He declared his resolve to end his life basing it on his failure to do so.

“The incident was reported to us by IIT authorities on the same day and investigations revealed that the incident was triggered by the victim’s depressed psychological state,” said a police officer.

The student lived alone and did  not have a roommate.

203 - Jab life ho out of control... IIT-B sings 'all izz well' dna

Thursday, Jul 18, 2013, 10:20 IST | Agency: DNA


Around 800 new students admitted in various B Tech courses this year in IIT Bombay will undergo a comprehensive counselling programme within a week of joining. The Institute has chalked out a half-day workshop on “Preventive Mental Health” to be conducted by end of July and which is mandatory for all students to attend.

The workshop aims to boost students’ “mental and emotional well-being”.
Students will learn how to tackle homesickness, deals with hostel conflicts and take on the academic pressure that comes with a robust curriculum. A panel of experts from Tata Institute of Social Sciences and other institutes has been invited to conduct the workshop. The new academic year starts on Thursday.

Most first year students are teenagers. As all the IIT courses in are essentially residential, all of them will be staying in hostels which might be a new experience to most of them.

Prof Urjit Yajnik, dean of students affair, told dna, “We have permanent counselling at the campus for students. This year we decided to start off with a comprehensive session also, so that students know better how to deal with situations before they become too complex or get out of hand.”

The workshop will also be attended by senior students who play the role of the “mentor” to new students. IITs had started a mentor programme a couple of years ago to support first year students.

According to a professor, several first year students need counselling during the course for various reasons including homesickness, academic pressure and conflicts that come with shared hostel rooms. “Senior students have a different set of emotional problems altogether, which includes relationship and career issues,” he added.

Shivani Manchanda, counsellor at IIT B who is finalising the finer details of the preventive mental health session, says, “Loneliness and homesickness is what a new student feels once he/she joins. On the other hand, for some students from a rural background it’s a cultural shock to shift from a vernacular medium curriculum to an English curriculum. At the same time, they have to adjust with roommates and also handle academic pressure.”

This workshop aims to address all those issues and the students will be told to approach counsellor if they can’t handle any emotional situation. Several cases of suicide have been reported in IITs in the past, which alerted the authorities, forcing them to establish counselling centres in the campus.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

202 - Protests in IIT-M over a different hostel for freshers

Protests in IIT-M over a different hostel for freshers
TNN Jul 14, 2013, 04.16AM IST

CHENNAI: Nearly 100 students of IIT-Madras held a protest on the campus on Saturday, demanding that juniors and seniors be allowed to continue in the same hostel. Holding placards, they shouted slogans saying the administration was trying to create a culture akin to that in schools.

The institute, from this academic year, introduced a separate hostel for freshers "to prevent incidents of ragging". Several students said the rule denied them the chance to interact and bond. Others said their opinion was never considered before the rule was introduced. "The room allocation committee has three student representatives, but none of their views was considered," said a student representative who didn't want to be named.

"They say ragging is a reason, but there has been no incident of ragging in the past couple of years," said another student. The real reason, he added, was that the administration didn't want students to be independent. "Students here have a lot of say in non-academic things. This is a move to stop that."

IIT-M dean (students) L S Ganesh said the decision could not be reversed. "The Supreme Court has given strict directions to campuses to prevent ragging and we have to follow them," he said.

To counter this, students conducted an online survey and found, according to a pamphlet distributed by students, that more than 92% of the 1,062 responses were against it. "A decision cannot be taken on hearsay or unreported evidence. There has been no ragging of late and the number of first-year suicides in IIT-M has been zero for the past eight years," it said.

Ganesh partially agrees that it will impact interactions between juniors and seniors. "We have taken the decision considering logistics as well as other factors, including legal ones. We did anticipate such protests, but we respect our students. We heard their views," he said. The orientation for freshers is on July 23 and classes will begin on July 29.


Sunday, July 14, 2013

201 - IIT-M life skills course for freshers from July 23 - Deccan Chronicle


DC | 21 hours 55 min ago

       Dean of students Prof.L.S Ganesh speaking to media at IIT Madras. -DC

Chennai: Most of the freshers who join the premier technical institution, Indian Inst­itute of Technology live out of the comfort of their homes for the first time. Also, most of the students slog hard to crack JEE and would have never faced failures before in their life. Thus, when they enter the institution and start facing the real world, things go awry.

Identifying these prevalent issues among students, the senate of IIT-Madras has approved the introduction of a ‘life skills course’ for first-year students as part of the curriculum from this academic year, starting July 23.
More than 800 students are expected to join the institute this year across various streams and the initiative is to provide the course for all these students in one semester, said Prof L.S. Ganesh, dean of students, addressing the media on the campus.

Prof M. Shivakumar, head of Mitr, the guidance and counselling unit of IIT-M, who would be coordinating the course, said the students would be given two credits for this course and maximum efforts are made by the committee to make it an experiential learning.

The professors said everything possible to enhance the living conditions of the students should be addressed so that they learn in a conducive atmosphere. “We believe that it would be one of an early attempts and first-of-its-kind to provide life skills course for such a large institute,” said Prof Ganesh.

The programme would also have activities related to gender diversity, workplace issues, crisis response training like fire-fighting techniques and outbound experiential learning.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

200 - Enough theory, IIT-Madras students get game for life - TOI


M Ramya, TNN | Jul 13, 2013, 03.46 AM IST

CHENNAI: Students of IIT-Madras are authorities in game theory, structural engineering and everything else technical. But the institute wants them to sharpen their social skills as well. If it doesn't come naturally, the institute plans to teach them how. IIT-M will soon introduce a life skills course that will be mandatory for all first-year students. The two-credit course in the first semester will last 30-hours, and will be activity- and project-based, institute officials said. The institute will rope in experts from within and outside the campus, including alumni, for classes in specific topics. 

Other campuses have launched similar courses, but IIT-M dean of students LS Ganesh believes this is the first time that any university will attempt to fine tune the life skills of students on such a large scale. Around 900 students will join the institute this month. "It's going to be a logistical nightmare," said Ganesh. 

Students will be grouped into 12 batches with 40 students in each, and the institute will have to come up with ways to hold sessions within 72 working days in the first semester. 

The courses are expected to help students develop affirmative thinking, deal with success and failure, relationships, regional and gender diversity, alternate sexual orientation, health and hygiene, substance abuse, time management, decision making, communication and social responsibility. 

At the end of the semester, the students will be evaluated on these skills using psychometric assessments and other tools. 

IIT-Kharagpur offers a few courses on similar lines, but they are not compulsory. Another initiative being considered by IIT-M is corporate-style 'outbound experiential learning' to promote team spirit and interaction among members of the student council. There has been an increase in the number of suicides at the IITs in recent years. "Several students face stress, and academics is the least of their problems," said Sivakumar M Srinivasan, head of IIT-M's guidance and counseling unit, Mitr. "Freshers are 17-year-olds leaving home for the first time and many of them don't know how to use their new-found freedom. When they enter college they are thrust into a class full of toppers and have to cope with issues such as peer acceptance." 

The IITs formed a task force under IIT-Kanpur chairman M Anandakrishnan last year to investigate the cause of the rise in suicides. The task force has made several suggestions and that are being considered by the individual IITs. 

IIT-Kanpur dean of student affairs A K Ghosh said the institute is focusing on improving parent interaction and attaching faculty members to mentor students during the duration of their stay on campus. 

The orientation for IIT-M students begins later this month.

199 - IIT-M to introduce 'life skills course' - Business Standarf

Press Trust of India  |  Chennai  July 12, 2013 Last Updated at 19:10 IST

IIT Madras (IIT-M) today announced a series of student-related initiatives including helping them "process" failure and make them aware of sensitive issues such as gender and sexuality.

"Life Skills Course" will be an "experiential" curriculum that seeks to engage the fresh batch of 900-odd students in a variety of activity-based learning that will carry two credits of 15 hours each, totalling 30 hours.

The one-semester course is part of the premier technical institute's efforts to reach out to students who start preparing for an entry into this prestigious institute from Class nine onwards, LS Ganesh, Dean (Students), said.

He told reporters here that carefully selected experts, both from IIT and outside including alumni, will engage the students on a range of issues such as failure and a new-found independence. Suicide prevention will also be a part of the course.

With many IIT aspirants having never faced failure, such efforts will help the teachers enable the students "process" failure, he said.

Programmes and activities related to gender diversity, LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) and workplace issues are also in the offing through lectures, films and panel discussions. Such efforts were aimed at making students aware of and be sensitive to such issues, he added.


198 - IIT resorts to life skills training to cut campus suicides - New Indian Express


By Express News Service - CHENNAI
13th July 2013 08:14 AM

L S Ganesh, IIT-M dean, addressing the media | Albin Mathew

The Indian Institute of Technology -Madras is all set to introduce a life skills course for freshers from the current academic year, which will begin from July 29, in a bid to check the rising cases of campus suicides.

As many as five engineering students ended their lives at the institute’s Guindy campus between 2011 and 2012.

The rising number of suicides reported from different IITs in the country resulted in the Centre setting up the Ananthakrishnan Committee to study the phenomenon in all centrally-funded institutions and come up with measures for prevention, according to L S Ganesh, Dean of students, IIT-M.

“The committee came up with several interesting recommendations,” he said.
Ganesh, who was a member, said the panel specifically looked into what could be built as an institutionalised system to help students cope with difficult situations. “In this regard, IIT-Madras has come up with a new life skills course, which will be part of the curriculum at the entry-level from this academic year,” he pointed out.

Addressing a press conference with Lt Col Jayakumar, deputy registrar (training and placement), and M S Shivakumar, professor, department of applied mechanics, here on Friday, the dean said the objective of the course was to address two components that comprised a student’s IIT-M tenure: living and learning on campus.

“We want to make our country competitive. We want a healthy, vibrant and stimulated student community on our campus,” he said.

Pointing to the steady increase in the student strength in the institute from 3,000 in the 1980’s to about 8,000 now, he said 900 freshers had enrolled themselves for various programmes this year. Hailing from different parts of the country, they are in the 17+ age group and have prepared for a long time to do well in the entrance examinations. Students who were top rank-holders in their schools, now find that they have to compete with students as good as they are. Some of them are living separately from their families for the first time. “There is also a new-found freedom, which they do not know how to handle,” he said, explaining their difficulties.

High expectations from parents, gender and relationship issues and technological distractions were other factors that added to their stress, said Shivakumar, who is part of Mitr, the guidance and counselling unit of IIT-M. “They have not seen failure and do not know how to deal with it,” he said.
What started as workshops and seminars last year to cater to the needs of the students evolved into a formal life skills course this academic year, Ganesh said.

The course, comprising activities, projects and workshops, would be taught by experts from different fields during the first semester and assigned two credits (30 hours). It would cover three aspects of living: self-dependence, inter-dependence and independence. With a rise in the number of women students, focus would also be given to gender sensitisation, he added.

197 - IIT-M to post counsellors in every hostel

IIT-M to post counsellors in every hostel
M Ramya, TNN Jul 12, 2013, 06.51AM IST

CHENNAI: From this academic year, students at IIT Madras will have a friend in need, a resident counsellor, round the clock. The institute authorities will also have an early warning system.

The institute is set to recruit 20 trained counsellors, one to reside in each hostel so that the 7,000 students can get help at any time. The initiative follows steps taken to help students handle academic stress and other pressures after an increase in the rate of suicides on campus over the last couple of years.

Dean of students L S Ganesh said the resident guidance officers would have a degree in psychology or sociology and possess good communication skills. "Mitr ” our existing guidance and counselling unit ” is gaining in popularity. But, the waking hours of students are not the same. And student volunteers are sometimes bound by secrecy that proves costly," Ganesh said.

The counsellor is expected to toe a fine line between alerting authorities and faculty about students on edge and serving the role of a confidante. "The challenge for the officer will be to establish trust among students," said Sivakumar M Srinivasan, IIT-M professor and head of Mitr.

There is a proposal to change the existing arrangements, which advocate separate hostels for undergraduates, postgraduates and research scholars. "We want UG students to be in touch with their seniors, who can assure them they've 'been there done that'," Srinivasan said.

The institute was among the first in the country to set up an online confession page in 2011, now popular on social networking sites. Revamping the guidance and counseling unit into Mitr has doubled the number of students reaching out when they need assistance. A 24-hour helpline in partnership with Medall Healthcare is also in service. Parents are regularly kept in the loop of the academic progress and behaviour of their wards, and encouraged to report trauma and history of mental illness in their child.

A task force set up last year to investigate student suicides at IITs and other centrally-funded technical institutes recommended various initiatives to guarantee the mental well-being of students. It suggested that each institute allot Rs50 lakh to provide psychological support to students. Committee chairperson M Anandakrishnan said, "All the IITs and NITs are taking measures along the recommended lines. We suggested the government set up an empowered committee to monitor the progress and give support. That is yet to happen."

All the IITs and NITs are taking measures along the recommended lines. We suggested the government set up an empowered committee to monitor the progress and give support. That is yet to happen.

Anandakrishnan | counselling panel head