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Monday, August 21, 2017

IIT Roorkee student found hanging in hostel room - TNN

Tapan Susheel | TNN | Aug 19, 2017, 10:46 PM IST

ROORKEE: A post graduate student of Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Roorkee committed suicide in his hostel room by hanging himself from the ceiling fan on Saturday afternoon.

The deceased, Aman Chauhan, 21, a native of Uttar Pradesh’s Mainpuri, was in first year of MSc (chemistry). His body was found in the institute’s Ganga Bhawan hostel on Saturday around 1 pm.

Security officer of the institute, K P Singh, said that the room was bolted from inside. While no suicide note was recovered, some anti-depressants were found in his room.

Swapan Kishore Singh, circle officer (Roorkee), said, “The reason behind the step is not clear yet. His parents have been informed and postmortem will be conducted once they reach Roorkee.”

Sunday, August 20, 2017

IIT student hangs himself - DNA


Sat, 19 Aug 2017-09:26pm , PTI

The body of a student was found hanging from the ceiling fan of his hostel room at IIT Roorkee today, a senior police official said.

The body of Aman Chauhan, who hailed from Hamirpur in Uttar Pradesh, was found hanging in his hostel room at Ganga Bhawan, SP (rural) Manikant Mishra said.

A first year MSc student, Chauhan is said to have been suffering from depression for some time, Mishra said.

No suicide note was found from the student's room, he said. 

However, a diary has been recovered from the spot, he added.
The matter came to light when Chauhan was not seen by his classmates for a long time in the afternoon.

They reported the matter to the authorities who opened the room and found him hanging from the ceiling fan, the official said.

(This article has not been edited by DNA's editorial team and is auto-generated from an agency feed.)

IIT coaching: While pressure mounts for students, institutes have the last laugh - Money Control

Aug 19, 2017 04:54 PM IST | Source: Moneycontrol.com

While the government appointed Ashok Misra committee had recommended a regulator for the coaching industry, it is unlikely that one will be appointed soon


By


Viru Sahastrabudhhe, or Virus, the popular character from the movie 3 Idiots used the example of the cuckoo bird usurping the crow’s nest to explain how students would need to crush competition to go ahead in life. It holds true when you have merely 11,000 seats across the 22 IITs with 12 lakh applicants every year. 

‘Compete or die’ is the mantra that is followed when it comes to competitive examinations like engineering or medical. More so in the case of engineering, because among the 22 odd Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs), the students only wish to go to the top 4-5 based on the location and placement history. 
When you want a majority of your students to get through to the IITs, a feat that only Super30 has managed year after year, you try to get only the best ones. 

Ads splashed across newspapers state that PACE IIT and Medical, which is a coaching institute for competitive examinations, will hold a scholarship/entrance examination called ‘Ace of Pace’. This will be a test for entry into their engineering coaching institutes across multiple cities in the country. 

A few miles away from Mumbai, Paresh Tutorials is preparing students for the entrance examinations of top engineering coaching institutes for Mumbai and Kota. This centre that opened two years ago, operates during the summers and monsoons to only help students get into the top coaching schools. They, independently, do not offer any engineering coaching. 

Cut to four years ago. It was April 2013. This was the first year that the Joint Entrance Examination (JEE) the test for admissions into the Indian Institutes of Technology (IIT) saw a big shift in the examination pattern. Under the advice of the then human resource development minister Kapil Sibal, a new structure was launched where the marks of the Class XII board examinations were to be considered. Further, All India Engineering Entrance Examination (AIEEE) was scrapped and JEE Mains were introduced with 40 percent weightage for Class XII marks.

This was hailed as a futuristic move aiming to strike at the root of the issue, the private coaching institutes. These changes, he had said, would shift the focus to regular school curriculum and thwart the growth of coaching. Unfortunately, the coaching schools quickly responded by changing their curriculum to include Class XII syllabus as well. 

Four years later, in 2017, the size of the engineering coaching industry has grown to almost Rs 1.2 lakh crore, according to various estimates. And students are going nowhere.

Aakash Chaudhry, Director, Aakash Educational Services (popularly called Aakash Institute) said that their enrollments are growing by almost 15 to 20 percent every year. “We entertain students from as early as class 8 or 9. Scholarships are also offered to students through the Talent Test that we conduct every year,” he said.

These scholarships, which are essentially fee waivers for the coaching provided at the institute, are dependent on how a student performs at the test. 

The JEE examination has been split into two parts, JEE Main and JEE Advanced. Those who secure a rank among the top 2.2 lakh students are eligible for the JEE Advanced examination which is the entry criteria for getting admission into the IITs. For the final admission into the IITs based on JEE Advanced, a student must be among the top 20 percentile in their respective boards, a cut-off for which is released by the authorities every year.

Kota in Rajasthan is considered to be the hub for the IIT coaching industry in India. Thousands of engineering aspirants join hundreds of coaching institutes and integrated institutes that offer both — coaching for engineering entrance as well as regular curriculum for Class XII. Despite the extreme conditions and peer pressure in the city that has also lead to a spate of suicides by students, it is still the top destination every year, even as numbers are coming down. 

Chaudhry, for instance, said that their centre in Kota experienced a lower traffic than previous years. A few other officials from popular Kota institutes said that while the thrust on coaching has not come down, there has been a 5-10 percent dip in the students coming to Kota, since parents want them to study at their place of residence itself. 

In Mumbai, it is a different story. Integrated colleges that had both regular junior college (Class XI and XII) in the morning and coaching classes in the evening have been facing trouble. A case has been filed at the Bombay High Court on this matter and a final decision is pending. 

Chhaya Shastri, Non-Independent, Non-Executive Director at MT Educare and a mentor at their entrance examination coaching arm Lakshya Institute said that traditionally India has been a hub for mentoring and coaching. 

“Yes, there is a rise in the enrollments. Because formal schools are unable to cater to the IIT exams. It involves analytical ability and it is not possible to be imparted at routine hours of the school. But the days of unorganised players is diffusing,” she said. 

Apart from regular coaching, Lakshya Institute also offers a revision tool called Robomate to help students revise the portions at home. Shastri said that apart from hand-holding and monitoring the student, they also have invested heavily in training and development for the teachers. 

For students, this is where they spend the whole day.  Cracking one of the toughest examinations of the country is no mean feat. Sarvesh Mehtani, the JEE Advanced Topper said that Lakshya was like home during JEE preparations. I went home only to sleep. There were either lectures or something important happening all the time. Discussions and doubt solving were always going on and I did not want to miss it. The teachers themselves forced us to take a break with a little fun activity. We played cricket or went to a movie. Motivation happened naturally since everybody was into preparation mode,” he added. 

Until 2012, a student scoring 60 per cent in his/her Class XII board was eligible for a seat in the IITs. There are 32 Boards in India with different patterns of examination and evaluation. 
Taking a cue from offline coaching, online institutes have also flourished. Rajshekhar Ratrey, VP Educational Content, Toppr.com said that their user base has grown over 3 times in last 16 months. 

Ratrey said that the average age of students enrolling for programmes is 15.5 years and the fee is charged for subscription based on the duration. Further, scholarships in the form of fee waiver are given on a case-to-case basis for deserving and meritorious students.

Nikhil Mahajan, Executive Director and Group CEO Enterprise Business, CL Educate (Career Launcher) said that there is a rise of about 15-20 percent in terms of enrolments on a year-on-year basis. 

For physical institutes, the rise in enrollments post the JEE change is clearly visible and is a reflection of the student push to get through at any cost.

Since JEE (Joint Entrance Exam) came into force, Career Launcher has seen a growth of about 30 percent in enrollments as Mahajan said that students are also concerned about their Class XII marks. 

On an average, a 15-16-year-old enrolls for a 2-year programme for preparing for JEE and getting into the IITs. Though, past few years have seen students as young as those in 6th standard start with the foundation programmes for preparing for the engineering entrances.

The fee for coaching institutes ranges from Rs 1.5 lakh to Rs 3 lakh depending on the type of course, duration and location. Fee waivers are offered to students who perform well in the entrance test of the coaching institute. Financial incentives are also offered by institutes like Lakshya to the top scorers/rank holders JEE Advanced examinations. 

Majajan also said that the reliance on coaching institutes, in fact, has increased over the years. As long as there are sudden changes that keep happening in the exam patterns, a situation of panic amongst students will keep cropping up, according to him. 

“With the cutthroat competition, where over 10 lakh students sit for the JEE Mains and only 2.2 lakh qualify for the JEE Advanced and only around 10,000 students make it to the IITs, coaching institutes give that extra academic push to the students, which is required to crack the toughest of entrances,” said Mahajan. 

Apart from intense competition and unauthorised new institutes cropping up every year, issues related to extreme pressure to perform well and fee hikes every year have made parents a worried lot. While the government appointed Ashok Misra committee had recommended a regulator for this segment, it is unlikely that one will be appointed soon. 

As the engineering schools brace for another change from 2018 in the form of another all-India test subsuming all state and national entrance examination, coaching institutes seem to be having the last laugh.


Monday, August 14, 2017

IIIT Bangalore student jumps from 7th floor, dies - Asia net


By Team Asianet Newsable | 08:53 PM August 11, 2017

Highlights
  • 22-year-old Sai Sarat was pursuing MTech in Integrated Course in IIIT in Bengaluru
  • Sarat allegedly jumped off the seventh floor of the hostel in Electronic City at 5 am on August 11
  • Reason for the death is not known yet, no death note was found 
Sai Sarat, a student of Integrated M.Tech in IIIT Bangalore jumped from the seventh floor of his hostel and was found dead.
22-year-old Sai Sarat hailed from Andhra Pradesh and was staying in a hostel near Electronic City in Bengaluru. He jumped from the hostel at 5 am on August 11. The reason for the death is not known yet.

Reports in Public TV said that Sarat was good in studies and did not have any bad remark as a student. He was in the fourth year of the integrated MTech Course in IIIT. He allegedly chose to jump when all his friends and hostel inmates were in sleep.
Sai Sarat's father Kodanda Reddy is an officer in the Income Tax Department in Andhra Pradesh. The family is financially well-settled. Even the College authority has stated that Sarat was a good student.

A case in this regard has been booked by the Electronic City Police.

After Kavya's death in Alva's School, who was found hanging in her hostel room, many other incidents were reported where students in hostel had allegedly committed suicide.

Especially in Sarat's case, there were no complaints about him in studies or any other problem specified. This death looks mysterious and so far there is no mention about any death note.




Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Zero suicide: not a utopian goal - The Hindu

Zero suicide: not a utopian goal


AUGUST 06, 2017 23:58 IS


A systems-based approach is needed, and we need to start now

Mumbai: Let me start bluntly. We sit atop the global suicide table. But we are in denial of this fact, despite annual and decadal growth of suicide and suicide attempts.

For last the few months, a fundamental question has lurked in my disrupted mind. (I am a sufferer of bipolar disorder for decades. I have lived life with suicidal ideation and more than one failed suicide attempt.) Has the time arrived for the nation to do an about-turn, to usher in a paradigm shift in the way suicidal ideation, suicide attempts and completed suicide is viewed in the country? Can we take a U-turn adopting a Mission Zero Suicide India?

When I first broached this idea in a conference called, ‘Depression: Let us Talk’ on this year’s World Health Day celebration at Bombay Hospital, a noted psychiatrist friend whispered in my ears, “Zero suicide is utopia.”
But I dare to say that this mission is neither utopian nor a pipe-dream. It is aspirational and audacious, but it is a goal whose time has come.

Setting goals
For a start, it aims to get us to shed old beliefs and dogmas about suicide. It calls for eschewing incrementalism in favour of radical, transformational, and systematic preventive agenda. In the Indian context, it also means letting go of the long-held belief that some people are programmed to commit suicide, that in a country of 130 crore persons, it is inevitable that some will invariably take their lives. In a nutshell, it calls for brand new thinking in suicide care, one in which suicide elimination becomes the central goal at national, state, city and village levels.

Why must we aim for elimination instead of reduction?
If instead of banishing suicide, the national agenda is to reduce it below, say, 1 per 10,000, it would still be commendable. But think: what if that one is your spouse? Your parent or your child? Your friend? The goal has humungous personal, familial, societal, and national benefits. Is that not it in itself a sufficient reason?

I will return to this a little later. Let us first get an idea of how serious the Indian suicide problem is.

                            Akhileshwar Sahay.  

The numbers
While the causes — or sets of causes — of suicide are complex, analysis of the patterns, causes, and effects need not be. Unfortunately, there are no reliable statistics of how many Indians commit suicide annually. Data on suicide attempts is so opaque that any attempt to understand it is like groping inside a black box in the dark.

Here is what we do know.
The first representative research on the prevalence of suicide in India, by my friend Dr. Vikram Patel and his colleagues, was published in the reputed British medical journal Lancet in 2012. The paper said that in 2010, an estimated 1,87,000 persons aged 15 years or older committed suicide (1,15,000 men and 72,000 women). The age-standardised suicide rate per 1,00,000 is 26.3 for men and 17.5 for women. The worst finding, for me, is 40% (45,100 of 1,14,800) of suicide deaths in men and 56% (40,500 of 72,100) in women occurred between ages 15 and 29.

If this is not damning enough, a first-of-its-kind comprehensive report, Preventing Suicide: A Global Perspective, published by WHO in 2014, reported that 2,58,057 (158,098 men and 99,977 women, 61.26%:38.74%) Indians committed suicide in 2012, the largest number for any country in the world. India is the secondmost-populous country, but the absolute number is much higher than China, the most populous. It also confirmed the findings of the Lancet study about the very high suicide rate in the 15–29 age group. The study added the caveat that the rate of suicide in developing countries, including India, was highly underreported.

WHO estimates of global suicide numbers are between 800,000 to a million people a year. Indian suicides, it says, are more than 25% of global numbers. (Whereas we are around 17% of the world’s population.)

Official numbers in India, however, differ. The latest suicide data, for the year 2015, compiled by National Crime Record Bureau (NCRB), puts the total number of suicides at a measly 1,33,623, a little more than half the WHO number. It does admit, though, to an increase of 17.3% since 2005 (when there were around 1,13,914 suicides). The data says the male to female ratio for 2015 was 68.5%:31.5%, a significantly greater ratio of male suicides than the WHO figures.

The flaws in our data
However hard I attempt to digest this data, even granting it the status of a half-truth, it still presents itself to me as a blatant lie perpetrated on the nation. I have informed reasons to say so.

One, in a country where citizens are taught to fear the police, data calculated from police records is bound to be unreliable. Two, suicide numbers reported by WHO and in Lancet research mock the veracity of NCRB data. Three, Section 309 of the Indian Penal Code criminalises suicide attempts, resulting in gross underreporting of suicides and attempted suicides. Four, aside from the law, the stigma stops families from reporting suicide and suicide attempts. Five, our unreliable death registration process ensures that a large number of actual suicides simply die uncounted.

More than the numerical blunder, NCRB data scores atrociously high on the callousness with which it reports the causes of suicide. It lists a disparate set of 29 reasons (including nine sub-reasons) in the heartless manner that only the Indian police system is capable of. They are, indebtedness, four distinct marriage-related issues, family problems, impotency, five chronic illnesses, bereavement, drug abuse/alcohol addiction, fall in social reputation, failure in love affairs, poverty, unemployment, property dispute, illicit relation, physical abuse and career problems. Ironically, one of the causes it lists is the insane word ‘insanity.’ (The correct term is mental illness; words like insanity and lunacy — as in the Luncacy Act, 1912 — do not have a place in independent India.

Also, while providing this large inventory of reasons, NCRB misses the big picture. That is, in every reason for suicide reported by it, stress, distress and depression are constants.

An alternative study
Dismayed by the paucity of reliable data, the lack of authenticity of the aetiology, and, if I may say so, the incompetence of the NCRB, I conducted my own small study. I recorded media-reported suicides, along with possible reasons for the suicides, of the current year. The size of my sample is a little over 2,000. The people varied from an eight-year-old child in north-east India to an 85-year-old from Mumbai.

The list included school, college, nursing, medical and engineering students (including from the prestigious IITs and Banaras Hindu University), aspiring PhDs, journalists, blue- and white-collar workers, labourers, maids, farmers, government employees, film and TV actors, military, paramilitary and other uniformed personnel, homemakers, wives and husbands, even suicides by full families, including grandparents and even a great-grandfather. They represented both sides of the so-called ‘Bharat versus India’ schism. Their circumstances and their methods differed: some were on impulse and others clearly pre-meditated or well-planned, some seemed of ‘sound mind’ and others seemed in some way mentally unstable to those who knew them.

But there was one strong causative factor unifying all the cases: extreme distress and stress.

Some learnings from my data and other sources are sobering.
Every hour, two, may be more, young Indians commit suicide.
Every year, more than 20,000 Indian homemakers — housewives in older parlance — take their lives.

As per a Government of India affidavit to the Supreme Court in 2017, during recent years, 12,000 farmers have committed suicide annually.

While suicide rates in the 30-50 age group are alarming, and geriatric suicide too shows an uptick, the rate in the 15–29 age group has reached monstrous proportions.

The economic imperative
Naysayers will say that none of these is a valid reason to find money in the exchequer for costly solutions like the elimination of suicide.

I humbly posit that aside from the humanitarian reasons, there is a good economic reason to address the issue. Here are my ballpark numbers and reasoning.

Based on the WHO, Lancet, and NCRB data, if I conservatively estimate an annual suicide number of 2,00,000, with a 35-year median age, the lifetime annual productivity loss to the nation is 50 lakh person-years.

Assuming — again, conservatively — that as many as 50% of those who commit suicide annually would have had no earnings if they had lived their full lifespans, the approximate loss to the economy at current per capita income from the loss of the other 50% would be ₹25,000 crore.
These numbers do not slow down: next year another 2,00,000 people will get added to the count, and the next, adding to the lifetime economic loss. It is a vicious cycle.
It makes sound economic sense, in other words, to eliminate suicide.

Is it possible?
What would Mission Zero Suicide entail? Is it even workable in Indian conditions?

Mission Zero Suicide is a systems-based approach that that starts by saying every suicide death is preventable. It employs a holistic strategy for suicide prevention: one that is timely, patient-centric, and equitable.

It then asks, what proximate and long-term strategies and interventions are needed to disarm, wean away, or engineer away a suicidal person from stress, distress, depression, anxiety, a deep sense of loneliness, nothingness, social and other alienation, traumatic conditions and/or other severe psychiatric disorders that propel humans towards suicidal ideation and suicide attempts?

Has such an approach ever worked?
Let me give two examples in which I believe the learnings are replicable.
In the first, the Henry Ford Health System, a non-profit healthcare provider in Detroit, Michigan, USA, introduced an innovative holistic suicide care system in 2001, called Perfect Depression Care Intervention. The approach included six major tactics: committing to perfection (zero care-processes defects, or zero suicides) as a goal; mapping current care processes and developing a clear vision of how patient care must change; partnering with patients to ensure their voice in care redesign; conceptualising, designing, and testing strategies for improvement in four areas identified in the mapping of current care (patient partnership, clinical practice, access to care, and information systems); implementing relevant measures of care quality, continually assessing progress, adjusting the plan as needed, communicating the results and celebrating the victories.

This systematic quality improvement brought about a dramatic reduction in suicide; its high points were in 2008 and 2009, which witnessed zero suicides; since then, while the rate has inched up to 5%, but that number is less than half the US national average.

Detroit’s success has propelled many organisations, cities and countries in the Americas, Europe and Oceania to pursue zero suicide missions. Theirs is not a magic bullet; to achieve even half Detroit’s success, and to sustain it, needs coherent strategy and dogged pursuit. Also, one must insulate such programmes from vested interests, like the pharma industry.

The second example did not start with suicide prevention. Sweden’s Vision Zero’s initial premise was that traffic deaths and car accidents were unacceptable, that the state should go to great lengths to prevent them. Through an act of Parliament in 1997, Sweden called for an end to deaths and serious injuries on Swedish roads.

The improvement happened because of a drastic change of thinking. It widened the responsibility for road safety, from the road user alone, to include road designers. The vision was implemented around ‘plank’ strategies, and it had an action plan that helped it focus. The results: from seven road deaths per 100,000 population in 1997, today they are around two. Vision Zero thinking is now embedded in every part of Swedish life.
In 2008, Sweden adopted Vision Zero for suicide prevention, with these nine strategic interventions.
Promoting better life opportunities in order to support the groups that are most in need

Minimising alcohol consumption in target and high-risk groups
Reducing the availability of means to commit suicide
Educating gatekeepers about effective management of persons with suicide risks
Supporting medical, psychological and psychosocial services in suicide prevention
Disseminating knowledge about evidence-based methods for reducing suicide
Raising competence of key healthcare and prison staff who care for people with suicidal problems
Analysis of suicide cases which occurred within the healthcare system and 28 days after discharge
Supporting voluntary organisations.

A key feature of Vision Zero Suicide is the promotion of the ideal: that suicide is everyone’s responsibility, and first-aid training to help suicidal persons is provided for every citizen. Though it has not met its desired success rate, application of its methods has spread to Singapore, the USA and Europe and West Asia.

Intent, I must add, is not enough.

For example, America as a whole has employed the most tools for suicide prevention, right down to the provincial level, and including a 24/7 national helpline, but in the last decade, the suicide rate has gone up, not down. Thomas Insel, long-time (and now former) director of the USA’s National Institute of Mental Health, considers this his key sorrow.

A plan for India
What can we learn from initiatives in other parts of the world, and replicate here in India?
This is my nine-point programme for India. Let’s call it Nine to Zero.
Make the elimination of suicide not just a national mission but also every citizen’s mission
Jump-start the National Alliance for Suicide Prevention in public, private and NGO-coalition mode
Invest in multidisciplinary research: suicide has a complex aetiology
Think global but act local: Indian states are as different from each other, if not more, than some countries are, and one size will not fit all
A dovetailed suicide prevention strategy is needed at central, state, city and village level; this is a long-haul effort
Learn from the successes and failures of others
and urgently create a National Task force for formulating suicide prevention strategies and implementation plans
Adopt an empirical, evidence-based approach to intervention
Reduce access to the means of suicide, and use technology (to count suicides and suicide attempts, as well as to disseminate why and how it has to be eliminated) and introduce multidisciplinary review of suicide attempts
There is a crying need for a best practices communication strategy, including for media and social media

And Point Ten, or should I say, Point Zero: we must start now.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Former IIT Kanpur student sits on railway track to end life, rescued - TNN

Abhinav Malhotra | TNN | Updated: Aug 5, 2017, 11:32 PM IST

KANPUR: An ex-student of IIT-Kanpur allegedly tried to commit suicide by sitting on the railway track near institute campus in wait for a train to arrive. The former IITian took the extreme step on Friday night. He was saved by the railway staff who had spotted him. He was later handed handed him over to Kalyanpur police. The police during interrogation came to know that Ravi Kant (name changed) was upset ever since he was not getting a document from IIT-Kanpur which he was requiring to get job abroad. The IIT-Kanpur administration however, said that the ex-student was perturbed over some issue which was not related to any administrative work at the institute.

The Kalyanpur police learnt that the former IITian had passed out from the institute in June 2017. Police said that since it was taking sometime in the processing of the documents at IIT-Kanpur, he was perturbed. "It seems more over he was mentally engrossed with some personal issue which he was not able to express before us. When police came to know about that this, student had gone to attempt suicide at railway track near IIT-K, he was rescued and brought to Kalyanpur police station where he was counselled. His family had been informed about the incident late on Friday night itself. As his family is in Ranchi, he was handed over to a local guardian at about 2 am", said Circle Officer, Kalyanpur, Rajnish Verma while talking to TOI. He said that the ex-student was spotted at the railway tracks 9 pm on Friday. 

"He was reluctant to talk and mention about his problem. He was showing haste in going home. He was counselled a lot and got a bit comfortable after which he was made to eat dinner", the official said.


The IIT-Kanpur authorities informed TOI that the student had passed out in June this year and there is no pending administrative work related to this ex-student. Assistant Registrar, Information Cell (IIT-K), Sarang Nandedkar told TOI that the student is now an alumnus and there is no administrative delay which has caused inconvenience to him. 

Saturday, July 29, 2017

IITs take initiative to reduce suicide among students - DNA



DNA CORRESPONDENT | Fri, 28 Jul 2017-07:35am , New Delhi , DNA

Twelve students have committed suicide and some attempted at suicide across various Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) in the country in last three years.

5 such cases were reported in 2015, 4 cases in 2014, and 3 in 2016. This information was revealed by minister of state, human resource development, Mahendra Nath Pandey, in response to a written question in Parliament on Thursday.
According to the ministry, the reasons vary from academic stress to domestic and personal reasons. The institutions themselves, however realise that the problem is serious. Hence, the institutions have started taking various initiatives to make the students feel comfortable, specially freshers and those who have a problem with the medium of learning.

"IITs have been taking various steps such as peer assisted learning, special languages classes for students who need help with studies, in order to ease the academic stress. In addition to this, IITs also conduct workshops/ seminars on wellness, regular sessions on Yoga, induction programmes, extracurricular activities, including sports and cultural activities, to create a friendly environment for students," the minister added.

IIT Delhi, which is one of the oldest IITs in the country and gets students from various parts of the country, is going to pay special attention to its first year students from this year. From their orientation session to extra-curricular activities, the institute is taking some new initiatives.

"We have appointed senior students as guides for first year students. These students will go around at hostels in the night after 8 p.m. to help students with studies. Since the class size in IITs is big, its is difficult to give special attention to students, such efforts will help. This will also keep the stress off students," a professor at IIT Delhi said.

IIT Ropar, which is one of the new age IITs is also going to organise a two-week induction programme for freshers to introduce them to the institute, departments, facilities and life on campus. Other than these, one of the most important reasons for this special extended induction programme is to get the students engaged in extra-curricular activities like sports, yoga and to enhance their social & team skills.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

India Has the Highest Suicide Rate Among Youth. Here’s How You Can Help Someone Who’s Struggling

India Has the Highest Suicide Rate Among Youth. Here’s How You Can Help Someone Who’s Struggling

It is vital that organisations and governments receive support to promote mental health education and promote coping skills in youth.

Approximately half of India’s 1.2 billion people are under the age of 26, and by 2020 we are forecast to be the youngest country in the world, with a median age of 29 years. With this tremendous forecast, it becomes imperative to ensure an environment which promotes positive well-being. Unfortunately, India has the highest suicide rate in the world among the youth standing at 35.5 per 100,000 people for 2012, the last year for which numbers are available.

The reason for such high numbers can be attributed to lack of economic, social, and emotional resources. More specifically, academic pressure, workplace stress, social pressures, modernisation of urban centers, relationship concerns, and the breakdown of support systems. Some researchers have attributed the rise of youth suicide to urbanisation and the breakdown of the traditional large family support system. The clash of values within families is an important factor for young people in their lives. 

As young Indians become more progressive, their traditionalist households become less supportive of their choices pertaining to financial independence, marriage age, premarital sex, rehabilitation and taking care of the elderly.

Emile Durkheim (1966) described suicide as one of the crudest expressions of social phenomenon. Suicide, or the act of deliberately ending one’s own life, is a public health concern and a growing one among the younger age bracket. There are several risk factors that come into play that may be responsible for a suicidal attempt or completion of suicide. Some of those many factors include-
  • being diagnosed with a mental health disorder such as depression or schizophrenia
  • previous suicide attempts
  • substance abuse
  • burden of financial crisis
  • family history of suicide
  • poor job security or low levels of job satisfaction
  • history of being abused or witnessing continuous abuse
  • being diagnosed with a serious medical condition, such as cancer or HIV
  • being socially discriminated or ostracised
  • being exposed to suicidal behaviour
There is a notable gender difference in the suicidal attempts and completion of suicide. Women are four times more likely than men to attempt suicide (make an attempt but not complete), whereas, men are twice more likely than women to complete the act of suicide. India is quoted to experience the highest rate of suicide among the age bracket of 15-29 years.

This leaves an impact on the development and well-being of individuals, societies and nations. National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) 2015 quoted that every hour one student commits suicide in India. Parents and schools cannot prepare children mentally and psychologically for the many triggers in the world. Hence it is imperative that as a society we work to promote a positive environment. It is vital that organisations and governments receive support to promote mental health education and promote coping skills in youth.

Suicide is preventable.
The striking numbers around youth suicide are shameful!
There is about 1 suicide occurring every 40 seconds across the globe. Together, we must all stand up, speak up, and advocate for better policies and implementation of resources for mental health. We must view suicide as a condition needing treatment, not as a punishment. A multi-pronged approach must be taken to decrease the world’s suicide rate. Mental health education and resources for dealing with symptoms of mental health should be taught and promoted from an early age. Doing so will provide an avenue for the maintenance of dignity and help-seeking behavior.

If you know someone who is feeling suicidal or is emotionally distressed, tell them that you care for them. Being an active listener and being aware of signs of distress can help you to be there and make the person realise that you will help them and that they deserve to be helped. Being empathetic helps the person feel understood and heard. It is important to realise that feeling suicidal is not the nature of the person but a mere state of mind. People feel suicidal because they feel nothing else will work out and their death will solve the problem. Suicidal thoughts are often linked with a mental disorder and can be treated well. These are some ways we can help.

In India, suicide is more of a social and public health objective than a traditional exercise in the mental health sector. Mental health professionals, doctors and counselors can be reached out to manage suicidal tendencies. The proactive steps taken by several such professionals in the capacity of leaders has helped and has the potential to help save thousands of lives. There are several organisations, crisis centers and suicide prevention helplines that are offering a great support to the emotionally distressed and those individuals who feel suicidal. Some of the helplines that may be approached in times of need are:


The Samaritans Mumbai
– 022 6464 3267, 022 6565 3267, 022 6565 3247Email: samaritans.helpline@gmail.com
Address – 402, Jasmine Apartments
Opposite Kala Kendra, Dadasaheb Phalke Road
Dadar (E) 400014
Mumbai


MINDS Gujarat– 
+919033837227; 
BHavnagar and Vadodara, 
Gujarat

Sikkim– 
221152, 
Police Control Room, 
Gangtok

iCall– 
+91 22 2556 3291, 
e-mail – icall@tiss.edu
Mumbai

Thanal– KERALA
0495 237 1100
E-mail – thanal.calicut@gmail.com
Address – Iqra Hospital
Malamparamba, 
Calicut 673009
Kerala


Prathyasa– 
+91-480 – 2820091
Address – Vidya Jothi
Cathedral Junction
Irinjalakuda 680 685


Pratheeksha– 
+91 484 2448830
E-mail – rajiravi2000@hotmail.com
Address – Near Ambedkar Park
Peruvaram Road
North Paravur 683 513
Kerala


Saath– 
079 2630 5544, 079 2630 0222
Address – B12 Nilamber Complex
H.L. Commerce College Road
Navrangpura
Ahmedabad 380 006


Roshni– 
040 790 4646
E-mail – help@roshnihyd.org
Address – 1-8-303/48/21 Kalavathy Nivas
Sindhi Colony
S.P. Road
Secunderabad 500003


Lifeline Foundation– 
+91 33 24637401, +91 33 24637432
Address – 17/1A Alipore Road
Sarat Bose Road 700 027
Kolkata


Sumaitri– 
011-23389090
E-mail- feelingsuicidal@sumaitri.net
Address – Sumaitri
Aradhana Hostel Complex
No. 1 Bhagwan Das Lane
Bhagwan Das Road
New Delhi


Maithri– 
91- 484 – 2540530
E-mail – maithrihelp@gmail.com
Address – ICTA Shantigram
Changampuzha Nagar (P.O.)
Kalamassery
Kochi 682 033


Connecting India– 
9922001122, 18002094353
Website – connectingngo.org
Address – Connecting Trust
Dastur Girls School
Moledina Road
Pune 411001


Nagpur Suicide Prevention Helpline – 
8888817666

Sneha– 
91-44-2464 0050, 91-44-2464 0060
E-mail – help@snehaindia.org
Address – #11, Park View Road
R.A. Puram
Chennai 600028


Maitreyi– +91-413-339999
Address – 255 Thyagumudali Street
605001
Pondicherry

Will you join us in promoting mental health to end the stigma and decrease the suicide rate in India?

Written by Pragya Lodha, Associate Programme Developer, The MINDS Foundation and Raghu K Appasani, Founder and CEO, The MINDS Foundation




9 per cent of IITians dropped out in 2016-17 - TNN


Chethan Kumar | TNN | Updated: Jul 19, 2017, 10:32 AM

HIGHLIGHTS
  • The main reason for PhD and postgraduate students leaving courses midway are offers for placement in public sector enterprises and personal preference for better opportunities elsewhere.
  • Undergraduates left due to wrong choices made by them and poor performance, besides personal reasons.
BENGALURU: Indian Institutes of Technology have seen 889 (about 9%) students drop out in the 2016-17 academic year, according to latest data released by the ministry of human resources development (MHRD). 

Of these, nearly 71% (630) were PG students, 196 PhD scholars and 63 undergraduates. The total number of seats available were 9,885, of which 73 were not taken. In 2015-16, 656 students dropped out of the 23 IITs; this year marks an increase of 35% over that figure. 

According to MHRD, "The main reason for PhD and postgraduate students leaving courses midway are offers for placement in public sector enterprises and personal preference for better opportunities elsewhere". Undergraduates left due to wrong choices made by them and poor performance, besides personal reasons. 

Fourteen of the 23 IITs have registered dropouts. The recently set up institutes — in Tirupati, Bhilai, Goa, Dharwad, Jammu and Dhanbad (formerly Indian School of Mines) — have no dropouts. Most dropouts (27%) were from IIT-Roorkee, followed by Delhi (20.6%), Kanpur (17.4%) and Kharagpur (10.6%). 

35% faculty shortage

The MHRD data also flagged another area of concern — shortage of faculty. As of July 17 this year, 35% of faculty posts in IITs remain vacant. Of the 13,012 sanctioned posts, over 4,500 remain vacant. The vacancy was 38% in 2016. To address the shortage, the ministry has decided to allow faculty working under central government or central autonomous bodies to join IITs. It also invites alumni, scientists, experts and foreign faculty to teach at IITs from time to time. 

Top Comment
Nothing unexpected. Remove reservations. There will be no dropouts
Appa Durai


Deaths in 6 IITs

Eight deaths were reported from six IITs during the academic year. Four of these deaths were unnatural and four accidental. Three unnatural deaths were reported from IIT-Kharagpur while one student committed suicide at IIT-Varanasi. IIT-Madras and Roorkee reported an accident each. One student from IITBhubaneswar died due to asphyxia caused by drowning in the sea while an IIT-Mandi student drowned in a river.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

A secret community for IIT students to vent frustrations - TNN


TNN | Updated: Jul 17, 2017, 05:43 PM IST

Last month, a group of research scholars from IIT Kharagpur started a Facebook page called 'IIT KGP RS Confessions' for 'frustrated' students of the institution. A student, whose life is troubled by his research or someone who has recently been refused by his or her crush or perhaps students who are reeling under study pressure can write their story here. The administrators of the group, who did not reveal their identities, told us they started the group last month after a number of suicides by students on campus. "We felt that a large number of students needed a platform to communicate. There are many things they can't share with anyone else and that is making them take drastic steps," said an admin. He said in order to maintain secrecy within the group, they accept stories from students anonymously. Each of the posts is monitored by the administrators and then posted with a number. "People read them and provide solutions to the problem and the writers get a sense of being a part of a community. This was the main reason we created this group," said the admin. The community already has around 1,000 hits and the number is growing every day.


Saturday, July 15, 2017

11-yr-old jumps to death in Telangana after parents send him for IIT coaching - Hindustan Times

11-yr-old jumps to death in Telangana after parents send him for IIT coaching

Every hour one student commits suicide in India, according to latest data from the National Crime Records Bureau.

INDIA Updated: Jul 14, 2017 09:57 IST
Srinivasa Rao Apparasu

Monday, July 10, 2017

IITs chart out wellness path for students; 24-hour helpline on cards TNN

IITs chart out wellness path for students; 24-hour helpline on cards

 | Jul 10, 2017, 05.56 AM IST
KOLKATA: While the IITs have been churning out world-class engineers, most of them with high IQs, are they emotionally strong enough? The high rate of depression, which often leads to suicides by IIT students, had alerted the Union ministry of human resources development that had asked all the IITs to put their heads together to chart out a course of "wellness" for the community.

The first workshop with this intent was held at IIT Kharagpur this week to brainstorm and introduce innovative programmes in their curriculum aimed at promoting human excellence. 

The IIT perspective was presented by IIT Kharagpur, IIT Bombay, IIT Madras and IIT Gandhinagar. Experts from NIMHANS and TISS Mumbai and several industry experts tried to understand the problems of students at hand.

"Our aim is not to pick their weaknesses but encourage their inner strengths. They are brilliant students whose problems are unique. We need to give them relief from unnecessary and imaginary stress elements. So, we need unique solutions too,"said Partha Pratim Chakrabarti, director of IIT Kharagpur at the workshop. 

The workshop has thrown up ideas, including a 24-hour helpline for students, an orientation/induction programme and academic curricula update. 

Several such workshops will be organised before a structure is arrived at but even before that IIT Kharagpur is introducing four programmes for its undergraduate students from this academic session, starting August. While the first year students will have an induction programme helping them to settle with campus life, the second-year students will have an assimilation session where they will understand the IIT system better. Once in third year, the students will have re-orientation sessions and finally in third year they will go through a de-induction programme to make them ready for life outside campus.

IIT-BHU has introduced an induction programme as well while IIT Bombay has collaborated with TISS for a counselling helpline. Faculty members across IITs felt that the issues faced by undergraduate and postgraduate students are not the same. 

At IIT Kharagpur, the students' councils will now have representation of four categories of students — women, PhD, postgraduate and undergraduate — from every department who will be further represented by a council member from each category. "This will ensure that the students from every department get to channelize their worries and problems to the institute administration. Further, students counselling will also include services such as career development and students' activities to encourage students to opt for professional help for conscious health and wellness activities," Chakraborty said. 


IIT Bombay has developed a detailed questionnaire to analyse students' mental health. IIT Madras has developed reactive and proactive programmes called Mitra and Saathi respectively. 

Thursday, July 6, 2017

IIT Gandhinagar: An Oasis in India’s Higher Education Desert - Fair Observer


Atul Singh is the Founder, CEO and Editor-in-Chief of Fair Observer. He teaches Political Economy at the University of California, Berkeley and at the
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IIT Gandhinagar offers some key lessons for tackling the acute crisis in India’s higher education system.

Readers must know at the outset that this author teaches at the Indian Institute of Technology Gandhinagar (IITGN). Furthermore, this author greatly admires Sudhir Jain, the director of the institution. He also has close relationships with and high regard for a number of faculty members in IITGN. Therefore, this is certainly not an article written from Olympian heights with Apollonian objectivity. Yet this author hopes it will shed light on an issue that bedevils the future of the land of the Buddha, Kabir and Tagore.

CRISIS IN INDIAN HIGHER EDUCATION
India’s higher education system has long been in crisis. In September 2004, Devesh Kapur and Pratap Bhanu Mehta authored a Harvard paper titled, “Indian Higher Education Reform: From Half-Baked Socialism to Half-Baked Capitalism.” They mapped the massive scale of the de facto privatization of Indian higher education. They posited: “This privatization has resulted from a breakdown of the state system and an exit of Indian elites from public institutions, to both private sector institutions within the country as well as abroad.” The situation in 2017 is far worse.

Kapur and Mehta also pointed out that the ideological and institutional underpinnings of privatization remain very weak. In 2004, the University Grants Commission (UGC), India’s apex body for higher education regulation, classified two-thirds of 15,000 colleges that educated almost 10 million students as “Arts, Science, Commerce and Oriental Learning Colleges.” Such terminology gives away the fact that the Victorian spirit might be dead in Britain, but still thrives in India’s UGC.

Little of the Victorian rectitude survives in India, though. Politicians have got into the education business and so have bureaucrats. Indian dirigisme simply means that those with connections can begin engineering institutes, medical colleges or management schools. Indian license raj enjoins that higher education institutions be nonprofit institutions. After all, they are temples of learning. That may well be true, but Kapur and Mehta astutely observe that “non-profit status allows for tax exemption and makes it easier to launder money.”

Most Indian higher education institutions are absolutely awful. They churn out graduates with little skill and scant knowledge. In 2016, a study found that barely 3% of graduating engineers are employable in software or product market and only 7% could handle core engineering tasks. 

Dheeraj Sanghi, an eminent academic renowned for his forthrightness, has chronicled “the absolutely abysmal quality of education in [Indian] colleges” for many years. More than “poor quality curriculum, poor quality faculty, poor infrastructure, poor school education” et al, Sanghi blames the culture of copying in colleges for the terrible state of Indian education.

Sanghi is right. In India, plagiarism is a way of life. Laziness, not learning, is the guiding principle of most faculty and students. The country has lost its moral compass and education is about gaining certification, not acquiring knowledge. The malaise is captured best by a 2015 Reuters report that chronicled rampant fraud at Indian medical schools. This has been a longstanding phenomenon. For the last two decades, I.P. Singh, the author’s father and an eminent plastic surgeon, along with many of his illustrious colleagues, has bemoaned the catastrophic decline in medical education. Remember, the vast majority of India’s best minds go into science, engineering and medicine. The less said about those who get an education in arts, commerce and “oriental” subjects the better.

Suffice to say, a growing number are deeply worried about the gargantuan crisis in India’s higher education system. On August 7, 2016, Shail Kumar argued, “everyone is paying a hefty price for [the crisis]: students, parents, industry, society and the nation.” Since most degrees are often not worth the paper they are written on, students strive to get into elite institutions such as the IITs. To do so, parents pack them off to coaching classes in towns like Kota where they prepare for dreaded entrance examinations for up to four years. The chosen ones get to go places like IIT. Those who fail to make the cut are often deeply disappointed, some are scarred for life and a few even commit suicide.

The coaching classes industry is booming in India. In Kota alone, the industry has an annual turnover of nearly $250 million (Rs1,500 crore). Some middle-class parents spend up to a third of their salary on coaching for their children. 

Unsurprisingly, the coaching business is now a multibillion dollar industry. Even as middle-class Indians send their children to Kota, richer Indians simply pack them off abroad. Children of leading politicians and bureaucrats leave for places like Harvard and Yale as soon as they finish school.
Given the dire state of affairs, is there reason to hope?

A LOTUS IN THE MUD
Those who take a cyclical view of life and history muse that things are never static and can always turn around. In the East, this view has always held weight. That may or may not be true, but there are institutions and people still living up to ancient ideals of education in India’s time-warped land.

One of these institutions is IITGN. Led by the visionary Jain, it is an institution that is taking risks and embracing bold ideas. For a start, IITGN is on the banks of the Sabarmati, the river by which Mahatma Gandhi set up his ashram some kilometers downstream when he returned from South Africa. In 2012, after turning down other offers of land, Jain astutely wrangled 400 acres of riverfront property from the Gujarat state government at a hugely symbolic location. Appositely, Rajmohan Gandhi, the nearly 82-year-old grandson of the Mahatma, now teaches here.

IITGN not only gains from being on the banks of the Sabarmati, but also from its location in Gujarat. Gandhi’s ancestral home, with its long, jagged coastline, has been a land of traders since time immemorial. Purportedly, it was a Gujarati sea pilot who guided Vasco da Gama to Kozhikode. Today, Gujaratis can be found all along East Africa, Canada, Britain, the US and any other part of the world. Gujarat continues to be the most entrepreneurial of Indian states and is relatively better governed, even though traffic signals are ornamental lights that no one heeds. The entrepreneurial environment gives IITGN the opportunity to serve the needs of the local industry, find jobs for its graduating students, and draw upon well-heeled Gujaratis to support the young institution.

Location is important but not enough. Besides, India is a land where opportunities are squandered on a daily basis. Even famous institutions have been crumbling. “Tagore’s Viswa-Bharati University is now a picture of decline and decay” and students at Malaviya’s Banaras Hindu University allege sexual harassment by faculty. So, IITGN’s location by the Sabarmati in the entrepreneurial state of Gujarat was and is no guarantee of success. The institution has got off to a rollicking start because it puts the students center stage. In a conversation with other university leaders, Jain remarked that directors may come and go, but students will be associated with the institution for life. In his view, students and alumni are the biggest stakeholders in any academic institution.

Therefore, Jain has fostered a culture of student involvement in all aspects of campus life. They have given inputs in architectural plans, chosen names of hostels, created mini-traditions and traveled around the country to find their moorings. 

IITGN’s “Foundation Program” for students who join the institution is exceedingly radical. This five-week program is intended to expose students who might have spent four years in Kota to the wider world. For the first time, many paint or play sports, do community service or organize social events, meet people from other walks of life, and discover new possibilities for the future.

Jain encourages his students to explore. Under his leadership, IITGN provides multiple opportunities for its students to go abroad and experience other cultures. Students do research projects, courses and internships all over the map. Some spend summers at US universities such as Caltech and the University of Texas. Others do courses in design or literature at places like the New School in New York. Some go to Japan where they experience work ethic, discipline, punctuality, politeness and high technology in a society markedly different to theirs. Yet others make their way to Portugal where they savor the sun and sand in the land from where Vasco da Gama set sail for India.

Jain has also made IITGN students discover their own land. An “Explorer’s Fellowship” enables students to travel through the length and breadth of their vast subcontinent. Through this experience, they come to understand their country’s traditions and its complex ground realities. The assumption is that travel through the dusty towns and rustic villages of India will give students much-needed practical knowledge, connect them to real-life problems and make them better decision-makers when they assume positions of leadership.

Along with this exposure, IITGN instils rigor among its students. There is zero tolerance for plagiarism that plagues the country. Students who copy from others and fail to do original work face swift and severe action. Regurgitation is unacceptable. Students study a range of subjects from mathematics to humanities to develop the confidence to come up with and develop their ideas. As Jain often says, IITGN aims to produce graduates who not only solve important problems, but also identify problems worth solving.

Naturally, students will only be able to do so if they have the confidence and bravery to think independently and critically. Therefore, inspiring students and making them think is a fundamental goal that Jain has set out for his young institution. In a country where rote learning and obsession with examinations rule the roost, this focus on learning and thinking harks back to Tagore. Unsurprisingly, Tagore’s iconic poem, “Where The Mind is Without Fear,” that celebrates cosmopolitanism, curiosity, reason, knowledge and truth takes center stage on IITGN’s vision document.

STRONG ROOTS AND OPEN WINDOWS
In the past, India was known for its universities. Takshashila, Nalanda and Vikramshila are haloed names in history. They educated scholars not only from India, but also from abroad. Each of these universities set strong roots in local communities but opened its windows to the world. It is this millennia-old ecumenical and liberal tradition that IITGN is laying claim to.
Jain has created internal systems that work. He has put good people in key places. He once remarked: “You have to keep internal systems in equilibrium to create outward looking universities.” That is precisely what he has achieved. A cursory look at IITGN’s website tells any visitor that American Nobel laureates, Japanese ministers and Portuguese officials have spent time at the campus.

The campus itself is superlatively designed. G.C. Chaudhary, the superintending engineer, has come from the Military Engineering Service (MES) on deputation after building runways for fighter jets in difficult conditions. He has achieved wonders on a tight budget. Once, Chaudhary was Jain’s student. 

Conveniently, Jain is a civil engineer who did his PhD from Caltech. This means he has been exceedingly hands-on in the designing and building of the campus. The buildings in the academic area all flow into one another and foster serendipitous social interaction between faculty and students. Steve Jobs had precisely the same idea when he designed Pixar’s headquarters in Emeryville.

Unlike Jobs, Jain and Chaudhary have created the campus rather frugally. Yet it has won numerous awards for its environmentally friendly design and has been deemed “the greenest campus in India.” Its innovative features such as the use of natural light, use of fly-ash bricks, cavity walls, solar panels, passive cooling technologies, saving pre-existing trees, and integration of horticulture and waste management are path-breaking in the country. Naturally, this pioneering spirit rubs off on students and faculty.

Most young institutions hire faculty rather quickly. In contrast, IITGN has been patient and picky. To set the institution on the right footing, Jain has astutely collected a crew of sages who retired from older IIT campuses to provide statesmanship for this young institution. Some sages come from non-academic backgrounds. Michel Danino, a French engineer-turned-environmentalist, conservationist and renowned scholar on ancient India, is a shining star in the IITGN firmament. Earlier this year, the president of India conferred on Danino the Padma Shri, a national honor for the country’s most eminent citizens. Other sages come from abroad. Fred Coolidge, a youthful 68-year-old professor and cyclist, brings to the campus l’étonnement philosophique, the ability to marvel at the wonder of the world and incessantly discover things new.

BREAKING DOWN SILOS TO SERVE WIDER SOCIETY
Coolidge and this author shared an office earlier this year. Among other things, Coolidge has worked on the evolution of the human brain and done some interesting work even on the Neanderthals. One fine morning, Coolidge asked this author which god had emerged from the forehead of Zeus. This author responded it was not a god but a goddess named Athena. Coolidge then revealed that this is where the frontal lobes are located. This is a part of the brain that controls our key cognitive skills such as language, memory, thinking and judgment. Did the ancient Greeks observe the human body and come up with this conclusion? Or were they simply intuiting something fundamental that modern science has finally verified? We may never fully know.

As a modern-day philosophe, such serendipitous discoveries delight this author. They are only possible if an institution creates an interdisciplinary environment. This is precisely what Jain has done. In Jain’s recent visit to Portugal, the education minister of this former European naval superpower remarked that he wished his universities operated a bit more like IITGN. 

The minister cited the example of IITGN’s engineering and anthropology departments working together on interesting problems, hoping Portuguese universities would do the same.

Younger faculty members at IITGN embody this interdisciplinary ethos and some of them are highly impressive. Amit Prashant has a mind that cuts through complex issues like a hot knife through butter. Vimal Mishra is a walking encyclopedia on river basins and more. Amit Arora has shed light on how to make the infernally heavy tripods used by the Indian army much lighter. Rita Kothari is a multilingual author, translator and teacher par excellence. Neeldhara Misra is a fount of knowledge on internet technologies and online tools. Manas Paliwal, a lover of Montreal and Canada, has wit and wisdom beyond his years. These and many others will form the spine of IITGN for decades to come. After all, what is an institution but a collection of people bound together by shared norms and working toward a common purpose?

With the institution’s spine in place, Jain has been building relationship with other institutions. IITGN has signed multiple memoranda of understanding with the likes of Tata Chemicals and the Indian army. Young researchers such as Arora and Paliwal will be finding solutions to India’s real-life and real-time problems. 

research park connecting industry and academia is soon on its way. Jain is taking a leaf out of Caltech or MIT and striving to make IITGN much more than a watering hole for students on their way to jobs in multinationals, careers in the civil services or research in American universities.

Of course, no institution is perfect and IITGN has its warts. After all, it cannot escape the Indian terroir. Many students are burnt out and lack the desire to learn. Few can write half-decently and even fewer can speak coherently. Some faculty members are not as passionate as others. However, it is important to remember that even Harvard is far from perfect. This author knows graduate students who crammed up over the summer and then taught undergraduates Indian politics from September without ever visiting the country or having any knowledge of a single Indian language. By contrast, Danino and Gandhi illuminate ancient and modern India for those who want to learn.

There is one last thing that needs mentioning but that requires a trip to the past. The pre-independence period from 1892 to 1947 was a time of extraordinary developments in India’s higher education. As Kapur and Mehta point out, philanthropy played a big part. Public institutions of enduring significance, such as Aligarh Muslim University, Banaras Hindu University, Jamia Millia Islamia, Annamalai University and the Indian Institute of Science “were created largely through voluntary donations.” The two gentlemen go on to observe that “the net share of private philanthropy in shouldering the burden of public institutions was as high as seventeen percent in 1950 and is now down to less than two percent.”

Jain has taken it upon himself to turn the clock back. He engages with people with extraordinary warmth, infectious cheerfulness and indefatigable energy. Staff members such as Santosh Raut, Sunita Menon and Yashwant Chauhan ensure that visitors enjoy warm hospitality for which India has long been famous.

This warm welcome bowls over foreigners like Olivier Lavinal, donors such as Ruyintan Mehta and even prospective faculty members. It generates goodwill that has helped Jain raise money for IITGN. In particular, he has tapped the Indian diaspora in the US and Gujarati business community closer to home. 

Remarkably, alumni from IITGN are already donating to the institution. For the financial year 2016-17 that ended in March, Jain raised about $3 million (Rs18 crore). Compared to US universities, this is piffle but IITGN is a lighthouse for other public institutions in India that are entirely dependent on government largesse.

This author hopes that other institutions will use this lighthouse to sail to better waters and India’s higher education will improve in his lifetime.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Fair Observer’s editorial policy.
Photo Credit: Instants