Wednesday, December 27, 2017
Because if anybody can make you laugh at tragedy, it's him
ARPITA KALA @akemi_is_here | 25 DECEMBER 2017, 7:51 PM
Biswa says what should have been said already
We bet the lines outside ATMs during demonetisation couldn't have been longer than the queues outside the auditorium where comedian Biswa Kalyan Rath performed today.
Rath spoke about students' suicide and depression on the last day of the Mood Indigo 2017 fest at the IIT Bombay campus. And surprisingly, it was funny.
Using his trademark dark humour, he said, "There is a huge problem in educational institutions that people are not addressing — students' suicide. It hurts me when kids kill themselves because they are my major fanbase. Toh dhandha bandh hota hai. So, aisa mat karo."
Despite the tough love, the comedian managed to give out some real advice to students who are facing suicidal thoughts. He says, "Agar tumko problem hai, speak to a friend... agar tumhara friend sarcastic hai toh baat mat karo. Because then you will say, 'I am feeling bad' and he will say, 'Toh jaa mar jaa.'"
The comedian did take a dig at the questionable hygiene of the engineering students too. "Tumhare paas lake hai, jao nahao. Four students came to receive me and not one of them had taken a bath. You guys haven't bathed for four days. One of them had his beard longer than the hair on his head. But I feel comfortable in engineering spaces," he says. He advised students to give taking bath a chance so that they can appreciate the beauty of life and not get suicidal. "Ek baar naha ke, dho ke ghar se niklo, life achha lagega," he says.
Monday, December 18, 2017
Posted at: Dec 17, 2017, 2:12 AM;
The rising number of student suicides in Kota, the coaching capital of India, and various IITs and other elite institutions is not a story of failure of these youngsters, but of our system
According to the latest National Health Profile published by the government, one in three suicides in India is committed by those in the age group of 15 to 29 years
It has been two years since Sumer Ram, a promising young student of medical stream and an MBBS hopeful, ended his life at a thriving coaching institute in Kota, the coaching capital of India.
Nineteen-year-old Sumer had missed the selection for MBBS through the All-India Pre-Medical Test (AIPMT) by 20 marks in 2015. “My son wanted to improve his score to be able to get an MBBS entry in the 2016 edition of AIPMT. He had been at Kota for coaching for seven months, preparing for the next entrance exam. In December 2015 we got the news that he had committed suicide. It came like a bolt from the blue because everything was going fine. The institute people later told us that he had not attended classes for a few days. When we asked why they didn’t intimate us about our son’s absence, they said they couldn’t possibly track all students in the class all the time,” says a teary-eyed Hazri Ram, the deceased’s father, a resident of Nagaur district in Rajasthan.
Hazri Ram is not alone in this anguish. Among the first recorded suicides was that of 19-year-old Nidhi Kumari from Jharkhand. Her father Rajendra Kumar is still grappling with the tragedy. She was studying in Kota for her MBBS entrance.
The latest suicide in this Rajasthan city happened as recently as December 7 this year and involved a young boy. Between 2013 and now, more than 56 students have ended their lives in Kota, unable to cope with the high-pressure preparation schedules for Joint Entrance Exam (JEE) Advanced for entry to IITs and NITs and National Eligibility cum Entrance Test for entry to top medical colleges.
The final push
Why are student suicides continuing unabated? Reasons are multiple. “Mainly because of the way the coaching centres and their schedules are structured. Annual expense to get a student coached in any top Kota institute is Rs 2.5 lakh. It’s a lot of money for most families. Returns are never guaranteed. But parents, in the hope of securing the careers of their children, take loans, sell properties and do anything they can to pay up. The pressure of this cost recovery is squarely on the student who is expected to study well and crack the test. A student’s individual potential for any discipline is secondary,” says Arvind Gupta, a Kota local, who has been tracking city-based suicides.
Each coaching class usually has 200 to 250 students with little personal attention being paid to anyone. Sundays are also not free as internal tests are scheduled on Sundays. The marks obtained in these tests form the basis to rank students within the institute.
“A system of discriminatory teaching is followed in almost all top coaching centres in Kota, which focus on potential high performers who can bag top positions in JEE and NEET. The pressure on slow coping and low performing students is obvious,” says a parent of a student who killed himself.
Alarmed by these deaths, the Rajasthan administration recently issued guidelines to Kota coaching centres asking them to ensure not more than 60 students in a class, mandating the centres to return the fees in case a student wanted to opt out and ordering them to institutionalise a system of sending SMS alerts to parents in case a student absented from a class for more than few days and without medical grounds. The present practice in Kota is to take yearly fee at the time of admission with no pledge to return the dues in case a student wants to exit.
But all this is still being practiced in violation of the government guidelines as suicides continue and as does the business of these centres. The city has over 50 centres. Around 1.70 lakh students annually descend on Kota in the hope of making their dream careers. The commercial value of Kota’s flourishing coaching business is estimated at Rs 4,000 crore annually.
Why do students continue to queue up at Kota despite its reputation of a suicide capital? Reasons are clear.
The mad zeal to crack the competitive engineering and medical entrance exams outweighs all considerations both for parents and students who, sometimes, have little option.
When Varun Kumar, a Ludhiana boy, committed suicide at Allen coaching centre, Kota, on December 3, 2015, his father Balvir Ram was shocked. All Varun wanted was an edge to get enough marks to enter a government medical college which he had missed a year earlier.
“Coaching centres don’t exist in a vacuum. The ground has been laid by our faulty education system where there is a premium on cracking competitive exams while school education is ignored,” says Rajeev Kumar, a former IIT professor from Kharagpur.
These Kota students often take admissions in the city’s dummy schools to complete their Class XII as they attend coaching classes on the side. Local administration is now cracking down on these dummy institutions.
A matter of aptitude
There have also been demands to mandate aptitude tests for students seeking admission to Kota centres so that they know about their potential at the beginning. This recommendation is part of the Kota administration’s guidelines to coaching centres but has not been followed strictly. These centres continue to enrol all students whether or not they have the skill and the aptitude to bear the gruelling preparation schedules. Naturally, weaker students fall off the academic track, many ending their lives.
The cycle of suicides doesn’t end here. It persists through the student life in IITs and NITs and various other elite institutions.
Scores of students have committed suicide after entering IITs because while coaching prepared them to crack the entrance, it didn’t prepare them to stand up to IITs’ real challenge of research and innovation.
Mahtab Ahmed, an IIT Kanpur student, who killed himself some years ago, had scribbled on his hostel wall, “I hate IIT.”
An M. Tech student at IIT Madras, Nithin Reddy, had ended his life after being asked to repeat a course in the final year. Nithin had already landed a job and the repetition would have meant foregoing the job.
The rat race for elite colleges
Even this year, many suicides have been reported from the elite central technical institutes, including that of IIT Kharagpur’s aerospace engineering student Nidhin M in April. He hanged himself from a ceiling fan. “Let me sleep,” was all he wrote before he killed himself.
Former IIT Kanpur Director Sanjay Dhande, who headed
a taskforce to recommend measures to prevent suicides on campuses, feels disproportionate attention and focus on IITs and NITs as India’s top engineering institutions has created the pressure on students to get into these colleges.
The Dhande panel had suggested end of single-room occupancy in IITs and to share rooms to encourage bonding. Another suggestion was to reduce the internet speed on campuses so as to wean students off gadgets and allow them time to concentrate on lessons.
Eventually, a system of MiTR (a guidance and counselling unit) was introduced in IITs to help students cope with the stress of institutional rigours.
The hidden signs
But even counselling services tend to miss signs of stress among students. The counselling wing of IIT Bombay had failed to recognise a student Srikant Malapulla as a depressive. A regular at the counselling centre, he had committed suicide.
“There is no single cause or solution for mental health issues that drive people to suicide. The high levels of competition are a major reason of stress which is why on this World Mental Health Day, the WHO had asked all employers to put the mental health of workers on their agenda. This applies to educational institutions also. Frequent demands of high performance, regular grading and the stress of campus placements in technical institutions takes a toll on students. It’s time to address the issue holistically right from reviving the worth of school education to stressing conceptual knowledge rather than test-cracking abilities which coaching centres hone,” says Dr Rajesh Sagar, Professor of Psychiatry at AIIMS, New Delhi.
Mental health experts, meanwhile, add that suicides are an emerging epidemic in India.
Recent data reveals over 1.30 lakh suicides a year, with young being the most affected and males being more vulnerable than women.
“One in three suicides in India is committed by those between 15 and 29 years and two in three between 15 and 44 years. The younger population is more at risk,” says the latest National Health Profile published by the Government.
It does not analyse the causes behind the trend but presents enough proof for policy makers to consider mental health implications of economic growth, competitive markets, shrinking jobs and disintegrating inter-personal and social ties.
Thursday, December 14, 2017
A 17-year-old coaching student has committed suicide by hanging from a ceiling fan at his hostel in Kota’s Jawahar Nagar area, police said on Wednesday.
JAIPUR Updated: Dec 13, 2017 17:01 Ist
This is the seventh student suicide this year in Kota and second in this month.(HT File)
A 17-year-old coaching student has committed suicide by hanging from a ceiling fan at his hostel in Kota’s Jawahar Nagar area, police said on Wednesday.
The incident came to notice on Tuesday night when Amandeep Singh, who hails from Raigarh district in Maharashtra, did not pick call from his mother, who alerted his hostel mates.
When Singh’s hostel mates reached his room, they found him hanging, police said.
Why Singh’s took his life is yet to be ascertained but a piece of paper inscribed with the word “sorry” was recovered from the spot, said Neeraj Kumar, circle inspector of Jawahar Nagar Police Station.
The student’s body was handed over his parents, who arrived here on Wednesday, after autopsy, he said.
Singh, a class 12 student, was taking coaching for IIT-JEE from a coaching institute in Kota. He had arrived in the city early this year.
This is the seventh student suicide this year in Kota and second in this month.
Abdul Azeez, 21, killed himself on December 6 blaming family problem for his extreme step. Last year, 16 students committed suicide in Kota.
Around 1.50 lakh students from across the country arrive in Kota, is known for its coaching centres, every year to prepare for highly competitive admission tests to enter India’s premier engineering or medical colleges.
December 13, 2017 | UPDATED 18:00 IST
Kota (Rajasthan), Dec 13(PTI) A Class 12 boy, undertaking coaching for the IIT entrance examination, allegedly committed suicide by hanging himself from a ceiling fan in his hostel room here, police said today.
Eighteen-year-old Amandeep Singh, a resident of Haldur area in Bijnor district of Uttar Pradesh, committed suicide last night in Mahaveernagar I area under Jawaharnagar police station, assistant sub-inspector (ASI) of police Avadesh Singh said.
Amandeep Singh had sought admission in a leading coaching institute about eight to nine months ago for preparing for the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) entrance examination, the ASI said.
The police were yet to ascertain the exact reason behind the boy committing suicide, the police officer said, adding that the body has been sent to the Maharao Bheem Singh (MBS) Hospital for post-mortem.
This is the seventh suicide by an engineering aspirant in the city, popular for its coaching institutes, this year.
Twenty-year-old Abdullaha Azij of Lucknow allegedly committed suicide last week.
On November 20, a 19-year-old girl, identified as Manisha Singh of Patna in Bihar, allegedly committed suicide by hanging herself from a ceiling fan in her hostel room.
The number of suicides by students in the city has, however, gone down by around 70 per cent as compared to last year, police said. PTI CORR SMN
This is unedited, unformatted feed from the Press Trust of India wire.
Thursday, November 30, 2017
November 24, 2017
In 2015, motivated by a cousin, Gaurav* joined IIT Kanpur, making it to the institution through reservation. He had cracked the Joint Entrance Exam despite going to a Hindi medium school until Class X, but his success was shortlived. He was soon unable to compete with classmates in a relative grading system. By the second semester, his interest in academics had declined. After the third semester, his academic programme was terminated.
Gaurav wasn’t the only student who was expelled that semester. According to data obtained by YKA in an RTI reply from IIT Kanpur, the institute expelled 17 undergraduate (UG) students that year on grounds of academic performance – every one of them hailing from SC (6), ST (5), OBC (5), or PwD category (2).
That’s not all. Data obtained through RTI also reveals that this has been the case at IIT Kanpur for at least the last 5 academic years, with every undergraduate student being expelled by the institute belonging to SC/ST /OBC/PwD category (See Table 1), suggesting a systemic failure in addressing caste discrimination and accessibility on campus. The only exception was the second semester of 2016-17, where too, over 80 percent of the expelled students belong to these categories.
These students were expelled on the recommendation of the Academic Performance Evaluation Committee (APEC). The committee made recommendations for expulsion on the basis of credits and grades obtained by the students.
An Inaccessible Campus That Excludes
Asked why only SC/ST/OBC/PWD students were expelled for academic performance in the last 5 years, Manindra Agrawal, the officiating director of the institute, offered this explanation: “Our process is (that) once a student enters into our system, it becomes a purely merit-based process. We don’t look at the category or any other characteristic of a student. And it is entirely based on the performance of the student.”
Activists say the reason this system favours general category students is because the institute fails in addressing discrimination. Odile Henry, a professor of sociology at the Paris8 University who was researching caste discrimination at IIT Kanpur from December 2014 to December 2016, told YKA that students from the SC, ST, and OBC communities feel “very isolated” on campus.
Manish Gautam, an alumnus of the institute, describes this isolation as stemming from what activists call “intergenerational discrimination and poverty”. “I could not live freely, because I studied in Hindi medium, sarkaari school jahaan kuch padhaya nahi jaata hai (government school where nothing is taught), whereas some of my classmates were coming from better schools ,” he explains.
“Caste discrimination is there, but it is very implicit,” another research scholar at the institute told YKA on the condition of anonymity. It comes to the fore when a professor asks a student’s last name, he said. Since seats were increased to provide reservation to OBC students, the research scholar said professors also talk casually about the declining “quality of IITs” due to “higher student intake”.
For students with disability, this exclusion begins with inaccessibility to the campus. Agrawal claims the institute acted on an accessibility audit done two years ago, but could not explain how hearing-impaired or visually-impaired students access classrooms.
“I visited their (IIT Kanpur’s) library a couple of years ago. While it’s an interesting area, but how do they ensure that people with different abilities move through it? Likewise their lecture halls, their hostels,” says Gaurav Raheja, an associate professor at IIT Roorkee who was also empanelled as an access auditor for the Accessible India campaign. He requested his comments be not understood as a formal response of the institute.
Gautam says that apart from subtle discrimination and exclusion, IITs avoid discussions on caste, citing the ban on Ambedkar Periyar Study Circle at IIT Madras. Henry observed this at IIT Kanpur when her research was discontinued by the institute, she alleges, for the “unofficial reason” that she participated in a discussion on the suicide of Rohith Vemula there.
Division Of Labour Based On Caste
The effect caste discrimination has on students is compounded at IIT Kanpur by the fact that they don’t have professors from their community either. The annual reports of the institute from the year 2012-13 to 2015-16 reveal that while the total number of teaching staff increased from 348 to 394, the number of SC teaching staff alternated between 2 and 3, and the number of ST and OBC teaching staff remained constant at 0 (See Table 2).
Admitting the numbers were abysmally low, Agrawal claimed this is so because many professors “have competed in the open and they refuse to put a label against their names”. “So the number that you see is actually those that have declared in their forms that they are from this category,” he said.
Beena Pallical, a national coordinator at National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights, says this is like claiming to be an equal opportunity employer by just showing an empty chair. “Why don’t they consciously go and look for those people who can fill those seats? It’s part of their mandate that they have to have these quotas fulfilled,” she said.
The institute, for example, seems to have had no problem filling up the quotas for the non-academic staff of the institute. The percentage of SC, ST, and OBC non-academic staff at the institute, for example, are closer to the reservation requirements, the same annual reports show (see Table 3).
Missing Remedial Measures
Clearly, while reservation policies mandated by the government ensure diversity in the admission process, campus doesn’t do enough to preserve it.
So even though Agrawal confirmed the presence of an SC/ST/OBC/PwD cell, the truth is that if a student wanted to contact the cell, they wouldn’t know where to look. The cell does not find any mention on the institute’s website, unlike the Women’s Cell or the Institute Counselling Centre. The only record of such a cell existing is in the annual reports of IIT Kanpur, where too it is only an SC/ST/OBC cell before 2015-16.
The institute at times seems to have shied away when students have asked for systemic help. For example, when an elected student body asked the Senate Undergraduate Committee (SUGC), which formulates academic policies of the institute, to create a remedial programme for “academically deficient students”, the SUGC formed another committee in October 2015 to look into the matter.
While this committee acknowledged the need for such a programme, it shot down key demands like running summer courses for students stating the demand was not acceptable to departments, the minutes of a July 2016 SUGC meeting show. “Lack of interest of academically deficient students and the stigma attached to it” and “shortage of faculty” for running new additional courses were the other two difficulties cited.
Not everybody is satisfied with the existing mentorship programmes either. “They are like surveillance to just ensure that students don’t commit suicide – that kind of attitude is there,” Gautam, who was also on academic probation at the institute, told YKA. He says he has only now been able to understand that what he actually needed was respite from the baggage that he “came through quota”.
Moving Beyond Quota
Three former students who had been on academic probation at IIT Kanpur in the past five years told YKA that the schooling that precedes IIT makes the institute a challenge for students from SC, ST, OBC communities or for those who are disabled. The problem is that IIT Kanpur continues to perpetuate that challenge, activists say.
“I want IITs to lead as role-models rather than with an approach that we have done this much and it is a great thing and let’s have an applause,” Raheja says. He explains that IITs need to make more efforts at periodic intervals to make the campus more inclusive and not sit idle because a quota exists.
Unless IIT Kanpur does that, it is likely to remain a closed brick-and-mortar entity for nearly half of its students – who avail admission through reservation.
*Name changed on the request of the student.
Ashish Ittyerah Joseph | Nov 25, 2017, 01:00 IST
The suicide of a girl student at an engineering college in Chennai, after she was allegedly caught copying, has brought to the fore the discussion on the burning issue of why our youngsters are not being able to handle pressure and resort to extreme steps the minute they are reprimanded for even the slightest misdemeanour. We speak to a cross-section of people from state educational officials to institutional heads to counsellors on the same. Social media, isolation within one's home, pressure to complete course in stipulated time, helicopter parenting — there seem to be one too many reasons out there for the statistics to show an alarming rise as far as student suicides go. So, what gives?
Social media, helicopter parenting put pressure on kids
Of late, on social media, many people always want to post things that project the best in them or their children. That result in putting unrealistic expectations on kids. That's the main problem. Secondly, we aren't teaching our kids how to handle failures in life. Earlier, when we were children, we were taught that the means mattered and not the end. But now, it's vice versa. In this case also, the same thing happened. She wanted to do well in the exam at any cost. Too much of helicopter parenting is another reason for putting unwanted pressure on students. A few years ago, the higher education department had initiated the Arts and Science colleges to have counsellors and may be soon, we can have them in engineering colleges as well.
- Sunil Paliwal, IAS, Principal Secretary, Department of Higher Education
Continuous communication between staff and students helps
The kind of democratic setup we have in MCC helps us transfuse concerns, worries and anxieties, especially among the students. Also, we've student leaders in the decision-making body and therefore, there isn't much room for any misunderstanding. Continuous communication between the staff and the students helps us sort out issues and find solutions smoothly. That ensures any untoward incidents. Also, considering the number of stress-related cases that we see these days, we have a full-time counsellor as well.
- Dr RW Alexander Jesudasan, Principal, Madras Christian College
Shame the wrong act he/ she did, not the individual
As a therapist, I feel that we've to be kind in the way we bring up an issue, especially when dealing with youngsters even if they're the ones at fault. These kinds of untoward things happen when the core of a person is disrespected for whatever reason it is. You must shame the wrong act he/she did, not the person. Many fail to differentiate between the two. Even to correct a person, we need not look straightaway at punishment. Also, what needs to be discussed is why an individual is being pressured to do something. In this case, she would have been under so much pressure to pass the exam. So, her intention had been to pass the exam somehow and it ended up this way Magdalene Jeyarathnam,
Blame it on the isolation within our own homes
From my experience talking to psychiatrists, some people genetically have this tendency to commit suicide. Meanwhile, in my opinion, this isn't a topic that should be discussed much. Because in some way or the other, that will give people such ideations when they're pushed to a corner. Instead, let's discuss stress management. And the best way to manage it is to talk to someone or call 104 helpline. In the last four years, there have been 1200 people who would have overcome suicide ideation after being counselled by us. There's no way we can avoid pressure, but how we overcome pressure is what that matters. Also, if there's a spurt in the number of suicides, blame it on the isolation that we face within our homes. Everyone is glued on to their mobile phones.
— Counsellor from 104 helpline
We need to build a proper, nurturing ecosystem for children
The family, society, education system and the technological advancement in terms of social media — all these have a cumulative effect on the individual. With social media dominating the web of life (of young adults specifically), the shame the person may have to carry for a minor misdeed amplifies multifold — and becomes a memory that doesn't fade with time. Psychologists have confirmed that we are negativity-biased naturally. Social media seems to increase this vulnerability. Many a time, the individual has been trained or brought up in such a way as to be quite hard on his or her own self — to such an extent that they are not allowed to consider failure or shame as a feather that can be shed. Shame and failure do not come with the same yardstick for all individuals. It is usually not the teacher who's at fault. Let me share my experience here — I went to the school my son studied at one day, so that the parent can observe the proceedings of the class. When asked a question, 80 hands were raised in a 40 student class, with a cry of 'miss, miss'. So much was the enthusiasm to answer. All of them wanted to display their knowledge. When one of them told a wrong answer, the teacher moved on and the kids in the class also didn't care about the wrong answer. It was over at that moment — and the student also never felt any kind of shame in having accidently uttered a wrong answer.
Being a teacher myself, in one of the colleges where students are considered the cream of the country, when I tested the same method as above, trying to draw the attention of the class into answering a simple question, very few hands went up. These hands were of those who were very sure of their answers. For a long time, I did not understand why this shift. It was later, while dealing with troubled students, that I realised why students' behaviour changes when they get into higher classes — it was all about maintaining their image among their friends and peers. The news about failure spreads fast — and this makes these students very touchy about erring. At IIT-M, we have one of the best Student Counselling Programs in India.
We have come to believe in moderate and balanced involvement of parents to be an optimal way. Parents themselves seem to need a lot of counselling, as they often tend to unknowingly transfer their anxiety onto their kids, in the belief that they are providing them with a better future. Actually, we need to do a lot of work in terms of building an ecosystem right from home, school, work and retirement that nurtures the individual in terms of themselves, and helps them shed socially driven anxieties.
— Professor Sivakumar M Srinivasan, Dean (Students), IIT Madras
Students' council needed in our colleges
In these places, there are hundreds of non-teaching staff who've no other job but to monitor students in hostels and ensure that they don't gather in groups for any reason. There are no extracurricular activities in these deemed universities. Basically, it's the fault with our education system. We need to restructure that. It's high time that the University Grants Commission (UGC) checked on these deemed universities and the way they function. Also, students council need to be formed in colleges to address their issues. There's nothing of that sort in our engineering campuses, especially in deemed universities. Now, Tamil Nadu is only second in India in the number of student suicides. In the last five years, close to 40,000 student suicides have happened across India. Several such suicides have happened in our deemed universities in the past. With their influence, they have been able to keep them under wraps. Now, it's because of Anita suicide and its aftermath, such incidents are coming to light.
— D Chandru, SFI south Chennai district president
The punishment must be logical
Children are so mentally fragile these days — I believe they are overprotected by their surroundings and they don't know or want to accept failure. Another reason is that there is not enough communication when the students come to a new college; they don't have friends in the first year, they don't interact with others and feel lonely. I don't know what the inside truth is, but going by the reports, if the girl was caught cheating in the examination hall, a mature teacher would have scrapped her paper and asked her to re-write the paper. They don't need to verbally insult the student in the middle of the examination. But even if the teacher is questioning in the examination hall as to why the student did it, it is not wrong. Today, children are sensitive; they are not able to accept that they are doing something wrong. They do not like anyone questioning them and so is the case with parents these days. If a teacher scolds a student, they are questioned by the parents — 'Why did you talk to my child like that?' So, I don't know where the problem lies exactly. From my experience, I can say that if the students feel and trust whatever their teachers do is for their own good, they won't protest. But teachers must be mature, behave, and the punishment should be logical.
—TV Geetha, Dean, College of Engineering, Anna University
There's unwanted pressure on students to complete course in four years
Pressure is there from both the parents and peers. No matter what, parents want their children to excel in higher studies within a stipulated time and get a lucrative job. Our education system and society are giving too much importance to trivial matters; for example, completing a professional course in four years and doing things only the way it is defined. But if you take the case in the world's most developed countries like America, government expects the students to finish a course in 150% of the time. If it's a four-year course, the number of students completing the course in that stipulated time is very less. And the students there don't feel pressured. Also, when they are caught copying in front of their peers, they fear that their parents will come to know about it and they will be left in embarrassment. Because these students would be coming from the same neighbourhood and their families would know each other. With every parent boasting so much about their wards' achievements, this would be an embarrassment. Another thing is that we only focus on the incident, but fail to discuss the root causes. Lastly, it should also be noted that there's a general perception and talk even among parents that private university education is commercialised. So, such feeling creeps into the minds of students as well and they will not pay attention to teachers. They see us as a commercial entity and give no value to our words.
— Koteswararao Anne, Director of academics, Veltech University
Wednesday, November 22, 2017
Physical exclusion and indifference of the faculty towards the plight of marginisalised students is pushing many to suicide, and despite measures being in place, administrations are doing little to address the issues.
A view of the JNU campus. Credit: PTI
On March 13, 27-year-old Dalit student Muthukrishnan Jeevanantham took his own life in a friend’s room at the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) campus in New Delhi, much in the same way his friend and Dalit scholar, Rohith Vemula, had done in January 2016.
Rajini Krish, as his friends knew him, had documented on Facebook the stories of his struggle as a student facing discrimination. Just a few days before his death, in his last public post, he wrote: “There is no Equality in M.phil/phd Admission, there is no equality in viva–voce, there is only denial of equality…”
The prevalence of caste-based discrimination in Indian universities has been an open secret for decades. While some Dalit student suicides have been more widely reported in recent years, away from the headlines, direct and indirect systemic discrimination continues to suffocate the lives and thwart the education of Dalit students across the country. Information obtained through Right to Information applications reveals that many universities are yet to implement recommendations made by the University Grants Commission (UGC) to address caste-based discrimination.
Discrimination on campuses varies from physical exclusion to a more subtle denial of entitlements, and to seemingly neutral practices which disproportionately affect Dalit students. Several official bodies set up to investigate allegations of discrimination have found evidence of caste-based discrimination.
In 2007, a committee set up by the central government to investigate allegations of harassment of SC/ST students at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) in New Delhi found rampant discrimination against these students.
The committee, headed by former UGC chair Sukhdeo Thorat, surveyed half the SC/ST students at AIIMS. It found evidence of informal segregation in the AIIMS hostels, with SC/ST students being forced to shift into certain hostels following harassment, abuse and violence by dominant caste students. SC/ST students reported that they faced social isolation in dining rooms, on sports fields and at cultural events.
Students also told the Thorat committee about discrimination by teachers, which took the form of “avoidance, contempt, non-cooperation, and discouragement and differential treatment”.
Eighty-four percent of the SC/ST students surveyed said examiners had asked them about their caste directly or indirectly during their evaluations. One student said: “Teachers are fine till they do not know your caste. The moment they come to know, their attitude towards you changes completely.” AIIMS initially rejected the Thorat committee findings, and only agreed to implement them after the exit of the then director.
Discrimination by faculty
Inquiry committees at other universities have also found what they said or suggested, was evidence of discrimination by faculty. At the University of Hyderabad – also known as Hyderabad Central University or UoH – six Dalit students have committed suicide since 2008. P. Senthil Kumar, a Dalit PhD student at the School of Physics, consumed poison in his room in February 2008. He was one of the four SC/ST students in the 2006 PhD batch – two among them had dropped out after they were unable to find faculty supervisors for their research.
Also read: Mourning Rohith Vemula, Who Could Not Rescue Himself From the ‘Fatal Accident’ of His Birth
The Professor Vinod Pavarala committee set up to investigate the incident stated: “Inconsistency and subjectivity in the standards applied for coursework and for allocation of supervisors… led to an understandable perception… among SC/ST students in the School of Physics that they are being discriminated against on the basis of their caste.”
In 2013, Madari Venkatesh, a doctoral student at the Advanced Centre of Research in High Energy Materials, committed suicide. Venkatesh had not been allotted a supervisor or a doctoral committee to supervise his research even 2.5 years after he joined the university.
The Professor V. Krishna Committee set up to investigate the incident stated: “It is indeed deplorable that Mr M Venkatesh… has been pushed to seek out various teachers in a desperate effort to continue with his research work, when it was actually the bounded duty of the University and the ACRHM, in particular, to have done so.”
The Justice K. Ramaswamy Committee, which also looked into the suicide, noted, “Though six faculty members from the School of Chemistry were available, none was willing to supervise [Venkatesh’s] research…He was discriminated on the ground of caste… It is not his personal problem, it is the consequence of institutional discrimination.”
According to a professor at UoH who did not wish to be identified, recommendations by the committees have not been taken seriously. He said, “In most cases, it’s very obvious when a teacher makes a student invisible – the teacher not giving enough time, being discouraging in some way, not allowing the student to not work in the labs. It’s not in your face and therefore difficult to prove.”
In 2013, 28 professors from universities in Hyderabad impleaded themselves in a writ petition related to caste-based discrimination before the Andhra Pradesh high court. Their letter noted, “Students from marginalized groups also are troubled by lack of clarity and sometimes contradictions in examination and administrative procedures…rules that do not take into account their difficulties, and discretionary and biased treatment from the administration. For example, ‘don’t waste my time’, ‘go away’, ‘come tomorrow’, ‘I am busy now’, ‘your presence irritates me’ (the last spoken by a deputy registrar sitting in an air-conditioned room) have become routine.”
Protests after the death of Rohith Vemula. Credit: PTI
Susie Tharu, a former teacher at the English and Foreign Languages University and one of the signatories to the petition, said that most teachers did not have the capacity or patience to work with students from marginalised backgrounds. She said, “The students’ weaknesses would be mostly superficial, like inadequate language, whereas they would have new and relevant important insights to offer and a rich set of questions to bring to any topic. Students who come through reservation and from backgrounds that the university is not familiar with really struggle to survive, but the administration is indifferent to that.”
Some universities have set up academic support programmes for Dalit and Adivasi students, but these are not without their flaws.
On September 4, 2014, Aniket Ambhore, an electrical engineering student at the Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay (IIT-B), jumped to his death from a hostel building. A month before that, he and his parents were reportedly told by his head of department and the head of the institute’s Academic Rehabilitation Programme (ARP) that Aniket, who was struggling academically, would do well to drop out and take up another career.
Aniket had enrolled in the ARP to receive remedial coaching classes, which were voluntarily offered by professors to help students. An IIT-B professor who did not wish to be named said that before the programme, the institute used to encourage students failing the first and second semesters to drop out.
“For the longest time, if you pulled a few courses in the first few semesters, it meant exit. It took a while for the university to realise that there was a pattern in the kind of students who were encouraged to drop out because they were seen as unlikely to make up. They were overwhelmingly Dalit,” the professor said.
Another professor at IIT-B who wished to remain anonymous said the ARP was inadequate as an initiative to address caste discrimination in campus. He said, “It comes through an upper-caste patronising generosity of certain individuals. This is more of a helping mode, which will never work out in an enabling institutional strategy.”
IIT-B set up an enquiry into the suicide only after the National Commission for Scheduled Castes directed it to do so. While the committee arrived at the conclusion that Aniket’s difficulties could not be traced to a caste-based or anti-reservation environment at IIT-B – as was alleged by his parents in a complaint letter to the university – they did find deficiencies in the support system for students who weren’t performing well academically in general.
The committee found that the SC/ST support system in the institute was largely ‘ineffective’ because of the lack of departmental support and interlinkages with other arms of the support system. It said that the role of the SC/ST advisor in the orientation programme and ARP was cursory and not integrated and that the support system comprised individual volunteers, with no effort made to ensure SC/ST representation.
Aniket’s mother Sunita Ambhore told me: “His caste was brought up from the beginning, when he failed two papers in the first semester. He even went to the campus counsellor but his feelings of being discriminated on account of his caste were suppressed. He was made to feel like he didn’t belong there because he came in through reservation and was repeatedly encouraged to drop out even as they praised his talent and creativity.”
In June 2015, after IIT-Roorkee expelled 73 first-year students from its BTech, IMT and MSc courses – three-quarters of whom were SC/ST – the National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights (NCDHR) conducted an investigation into the incident. In their report, the NCDHR said it was told about instances when students who approached teachers with questions were asked their ‘category’ or entrance exam ranks. One student said he was asked by a teacher, “Why do people like you even come to IITs?” The NCDHR said that it found a lack of institutional support and infrastructure for students from diverse backgrounds, including inadequate English language classes, summer coaching classes and remedial programmes. Their report also said that the SC/ST cell was mostly ‘dysfunctional’ and students weren’t aware of its existence or mandate.
Chirayu Jain, a former student at the National Law School of India University, Bengaluru who worked on a study on inclusiveness at the institution, said, “The student-run academic support programme and the will and the intent of student body, by and large, remains unconcerned with the issues faced by students from marginalised backgrounds.”
Admission process biased against marginalised students
Some inquiry committees have also pointed out that admissions processes in universities, while appearing to be neutral, put candidates from SC/ST and other marginalised backgrounds at a disadvantage because of English language fluency issues during viva voces (oral interviews).
In April 2016, the Committee on the Welfare of Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribes, set up under the human resources development ministry, examined the reservation policy at JNU. It stated: “[W]hile SC/ST students clear written examination with flying colours, they often fail interviews, which is indicative of latent caste discrimination on part of college authorities and teachers.”
In November 2016, a committee led by professor Abdul Nafey analysed admission data from 2012 to 2015 at JNU. The committee said: “The data consistently indicate the pattern of difference in the written and viva voce marks across all social categories which indicate discrimination”. It recommended that viva voce marks be reduced from 30% to 15% during admissions, and for the university to review the system every three years.
Indian universities did not, until last year, have a common admission policy for MPhil and PhD research programmes. However, in May 2016, the UGC issued a notification reducing written entrance tests to mere qualifying e ms, and basing admissions into these programmes completely on oral interviews. It was this move that Muthukrishnan had written against in his Facebook posts.
Compliance with UGC regulations
In July 2011, following several instances of student suicides, the UGC wrote to all universities asking them to develop pages on their websites, and place registers in the registrar or principal’s offices for Dalit students to lodge complaints of caste-based discrimination. In January 2013, the UGC (Promotion of Equity in Higher Educational Institutions) Regulations were passed, which required institutes to take measures to eliminate discrimination and harassment against SC/ST students.
Authorities in institutions were prohibited from, among other things, announcing students’ caste identities in class, not properly evaluating certain students’ examination papers and withholding their fellowships. The UGC also mandated higher educational institutions to establish an equal opportunity cell and appoint an anti-discrimination officer of professor rank or above. Institutions were obligated to decide on complaints within 60 days of receiving them, and also upload on their websites details of measures taken to eliminate discrimination and punishments for perpetrators.
In March 2016, the UGC wrote to universities asking them to submit ‘Action Taken Reports’ on whether they had constituted cells to look into complaints of caste-based discrimination, whether they had webpages and complaints registers in place as well as details of the complaints. Amnesty International India filed RTI applications seeking details of these reports
According to the UGC’s response to the RTI application, only 155 universities appeared to have responded to the UGC’s letter for the year 2015-16 (India has about 800 universities). Of them, only about half had a webpage where SC/ST students could lodge complaints of discrimination. Less than half – 47% – had constituted committees or cells specifically meant to look into complaints of discrimination against SC/ST students. It is perhaps not surprising then that 87% of universities reported that they had received zero complaints of caste-based discrimination. Of the 146 complaints that were received, some were apparently addressed through ‘lectures’, ‘counseling’ and ‘mentorship’.
Discrimination against Dalits and Adivasis is a problem that will not be solved overnight. Many of the universities mentioned above have taken steps to address caste-based discrimination, but far more needs to be done. Anecdotal evidence suggests that discrimination faced by Dalit and Adivasi students in less well-known universities is as bad, or worse.
Following Muthukrishnan’s suicide, a JNU professor told me that things on campus have not changed. He said, “The death of a brilliant young man was tragic to say the least. There are students like him who are first generation entrants into the university system and lack social support and language skills to cope initially. He had a lot at stake. But his death has caused no self-reflection. Things continue as they are, and there is no immediate hope of a transition or change.”
Many of the recommendations made by various committees which have investigated caste-based discrimination – including remedial coaching, functional SC/ST complaint cells and a sensitised teaching staff – are bare minimum standards that a university must follow. Their absence will continue to prove the truth of Krish’s parting words quoting B.R. Ambedkar, “When equality is denied, everything is denied”.
Makepeace Sitlhou is a former campaigner with Amnesty International India.
IAS Officer Pens Open Letter Over Student’s Suicide, FIR Registered Against Jaipur School - Indus Dictum
Aaditya K. Bharti, a 17-year-old student in Class XI (Science) at JVP International School and Bansal Classes in Jaipur reportedly committed suicide on Friday, November 10, after being subject to “constant bullying” by classmates and school management.
An FIR has been registered in Jaipur by Mukesh Kumar, father of the deceased teenager, against JVP international School. The FIR has been lodged under Section 306 of the IPC (Abetment of suicide).
The FIR states that the JVP International school management failed to act on all complaints raised against Abhishek Tiwari, and also participated in further harassing Aaditya Bharti, eventually leading him to commit suicide.
Statement by Mukesh Kumar against JVP International School and Bansal Classes
JVP International School is managed by Bansal Public School Educational Society, Kota. Bansal coaching classes for IIT-JEE entrance examinations are well known in Kota and the rest of Rajasthan.
The victim was also the nephew of IAS Officer Salvinder Singh Sohata.Mr. Sohata penned an open letter on Facebook alleging that Aaditya was “constantly bullied by a fellow schoolmate Abhishek Tiwari,” son of Mr. BD Tiwari. He writes that Tiwari “repeatedly used to break Aaditya’s personal belongings” and the bullying continued for one and a half months.
Also Read: BHUkhe Vidyaarthi
Mr Sohata explains, however, that the bullying came from not only his classmates, but even the school management,
He states in the letter, “… one day Abhishek Tiwari broke Aaditya’s cellphone, which led to serious repercussions, Aaditya complained about this to his Physics teacher (guest faculty), who asked him to settle the dispute outside school. To settle the matter Abhishek sent some of his friends to beat Aaditya who luckily knew Aaditya as well, so there was no damage done. But Aaditya complained to the school management, where Mr. Ankit Jain (school incharge) blamed Aaditya and slapped him publically in front of Mr. B.D. Tiwari (violating the CBSE guidelines for Corporal Punishment). Mr. Ankit even threatened Aaditya with more dire consequences.”
The contents of the open letter are re-produced below as they appeared:
Dear Family and Friends, I regret to inform you about the sad demise of my nephew Aaditya K. Bharti s/o Mr. Mukesh Kumar and Dr. Bharti Mitholiya, on 10th November 2017.
It has pained us that he committed suicide at an early age of only 16.
I understand that it is a very personal message and I’m accusing an educational institute, but we also need to understand the gravity of this situation and if it is not me who would raise voice on such a sensitive issue then who else would. It is our duty to protect our children and work for their betterment.
Aaditya’s demise is not just a loss of my family, but also an alarming concern for our society, on one hand, we expect our children to realise their potential and work for the progress of this nation, on the other hand, we still are not able to address basic issues of bullying which affects their physical and mental well being.
Aaditya was a student of JVP International School, Pratap Nagar, studying in 11th standard in the Biology stream. He has always been a bright kid, secured 9.8 CGPA in class Xth board, won gold medal in International Olympiad of Mathematics organized by SilverZone Olympiads.
Also Read: Ghosts of Philosophies Past
Aaditya was also good at sports and he was representing JVP International school in BasketBall matches, a cheerful kid who shared great bond with his friends , was well-mannered, caring and was loved by all – family, friends and classmates.
However a month and a half ago, an incident shook him significantly. Aaditya was constantly bullied by a fellow schoolmate Abhishek Tiwari S/O Mr. B.D.Tiwari, who repeatedly used to break Aaditya’s personal belongings, it was also told that Abhishek used to bully others as well.
But then one day Abhishek Tiwari broke Aaditya’s cellphone, which led to serious repercussions, Aaditya complained about this to his Physics teacher(guest faculty), who asked him to settle the dispute outside school. To settle the matter Abhishek sent some of his friends to beat Aaditya who luckily knew Aaditya as well, so there was no damage done. But Aaditya complained to the school management, where Mr. Ankit Jain (school incharge) blamed Aaditya and slapped him publically in front of Mr. B.D. Tiwari (violating the CBSE guidelines for Corporal Punishment). Mr. Ankit even threatened Aaditya with more dire consequences .
Aaditya’s parents Mr. Mukesh Kumar and Dr. Bharti were called 2-3 times on consecutive days, they were humiliated and threatened with a bogus complaint against Aaditya made by Mr. B.D. Tiwari. Mr. Ankit Jain showed a strong bias towards Mr. Tiwari, and claimed that Abhishek Tiwari belongs to highly educated family and has better influence blaming Aaditya altogether. So on the third day, my wife and I decided to meet with the school management and address the issue, I asked Ankit Jain to compare the students solely on their academic and behavioural grounds rather than parental influence, to which the school management assured us that the situation has been handled. We called upon Mr. B.D. Tiwari repeatedly but the school management never arranged for any such meeting.
This constant blame game and humiliation must have hurt Aaditya’s dignity and he must have suffered from inferiority complex. This affected his studies and mental well being, causing stress & low blood pressure at this age.
Also Read: Rushing In Where Angels Fear To Tread
Teenage is indeed a vulnerable phase of life, hence we advised Aaditya to remain composed and have good terms with Abhishek, but recently Abhishek broke his project and few days later Aaditya ended his own life. The increase in cases involving bullying, and its relation to suicide is emerging as a public health issue and we as an aware segment of the society must address the issue at a much deeper level.
Only if the JVP International school had been more responsive towards Aaditya’ case we would not have lost him in this age. It has been four days, the school didn’t even send any condolences, shows their apathy towards the tragedy.
While there are schools which take best care of it’s students , unfortunately we still have schools who are bringing parental influences inside classroom walls breaking their moral compass.”
Dear Family and Friends, I regret to inform you about the sad demise of my nephew Aaditya K. Bharti s/o Mr. Mukesh Kumar and Dr. Bharti Mitholiya, on 10th November 2017.
It has pained us that he committed suicide at an early age of only 16.
It has pained us that he committed suicide at an early age of only 16.
I understand that it is a very personal message and I’m accusing an educational institute, but we also need to understand the gravity of this situation and if it is not me who would raise voice on such a sensitive issue then who else woul...
The punishment for conviction under Section 306 of IPC is imprisonment for up to ten years, and the offender shall also be liable to pay a fine.
Monday, November 20, 2017
Uneasy silence: Attracting the crème de la crème of engineering students since it was established in 1950, IIT Kharagpur has in recent years witnessed a spate of suicides. Photo: Arunangsu Roy Chowdhury
After five suicides rocked IIT Kharagpur this year, there is much soul-searching among its students and administrators alike on the reasons that are pushing bright and promising youngsters over the brink
According to his friends, Nikhil Bhatia could’ve been saved after he was found lying in a pool of blood minutes after he had jumped from the fourth floor of IIT Kharagpur’s Lal Bahadur Shastri building on October 21 this year. Aside from several broken bones, there was no head injury and he was still alive. The BC Roy Hospital on campus referred the injured final-year mining engineering student to Kolkata’s Westbank hospital, three hours away.
Fellow students allege that ultimately it wasn’t the suicide attempt that killed him, but an inefficient response system starting with a rundown ambulance and other medical equipment, and a medical staff ill-equipped to handle the emergency.
Bhatia, a bright mind and an introvert, had reportedly been showing signs of paranoia since July, upon entering his final year. “He thought people were out to get him. He would imagine that random people were following him. The things he said stopped making sense,” recalls his friend Satyam Jha, a final- year mathematics and computer engineering student. Jha helped set up a counselling session for Bhatia and he was admitted to the BC Roy hospital. But he was discharged a day later when his mother arrived to take him home to Mumbai. When Bhatia returned after a break, it had seemed to Jha as though his friend had finally left his demons behind. So the news of his suicide came as a shock. “He wasn’t the self-harming type,” Jha told BLink over phone.
Bhatia’s suicide is the fifth case this year at IIT Kharagpur, one of the country’s most prestigious engineering colleges. A video made by students and shared on the Facebook page ‘How Many More? — IIT Kharagpur’ lists the other four names — Lokesh Meena in January, Satish Mandava in February, Sreeraj Sana in March and Nidhin N in April.
What pushed these bright minds and others over the brink?
Help is not at hand
In the video, one of Bhatia’s friends, who was in the ambulance transporting the injured student to Westbank hospital, narrates the tragic sequence of events with his face silhouetted for anonymity. “The attendant inside the ambulance who was holding Nikhil’s hand, plugged with an IV, left it to answer a call on his mobile phone. It was then that the needle slipped out of his vein. When we pointed it to the attendant he seemed unconcerned and said, ‘Don’t worry, we’re reaching Calcutta in 10 minutes’.”
What followed was a series of misadventures nobody was prepared for. The ambulance took a wrong turn, broke down, and Bhatia’s friends had to flag down a lorry to continue the journey (still without any medication), only to stumble again after the lorry ran out of fuel midway. It took them an extra 35 minutes to complete the journey. Within minutes of arriving at Westbank, Bhatia was pronounced dead. “I stand by everything I said in that video,” the friend told BLink over phone, on condition of anonymity.
“The BC Roy hospital within campus is generally understaffed and ill-equipped. If you’re in a critical state you get referred to a better hospital in Kolkata, and you might not always survive the journey,” says Aradhana Kumar, a fourth-year chemical engineering student and editor of a campus newsletter.
Back in 2009, when another student, Rohit Kumar, lost consciousness after falling during a game of basketball, he was referred to a hospital in Medinipur, 45 minutes away, and died en route. The protests that had erupted on campus turned violent, leading to the resignation of the director Damodar Acharya. The administration had promised to improve conditions at the on-campus hospital, but eight years later little has changed.
Academic pressure cooker
When Amit Sachdeva (name changed), an undergraduate engineering student, approached the college’s counselling centre complaining of sleep deprivation and anxiety, he was immediately asked to reveal if he was homosexual. “The counsellor recommended mild shock therapy to cure me of homosexuality, even after I repeatedly told him that I wasn’t seeking any help for my sexual orientation. I have always been comfortable with my sexuality,” he recalls. When Sachdeva drew the counsellor’s attention to the American Psychiatric Association’s writ against any form of “treatment or corrective therapy” for homosexuality, the latter merely smiled and said, “This is India. It is okay here.”
There are four counsellors and one psychiatrist for the 10,000 students on campus. “The cases are handled so badly that students hesitate to even come forward with their issues in the first place,” Sachdeva says.
There have also been complaints of breaches in confidentiality. “In some cases where students had reached out for help to break free of substance addiction, the counsellors promptly called their parents to name and shame them,” a student said on condition of anonymity.
The campus recently tied up with Your Dost, an online counselling and emotional wellness service, for its students to report distress without having to reveal their identities. But can that be an adequate solution?
“Social media has taken a toll on relationships with the loss of interpersonal connections between individuals,” says Mayank Srivastava. A fourth-year student of mining engineering, he is also a student representative and the vice-president of Technology Students’ Gymkhana, helping organise technology, sports and cultural activities designed to act as stress-busters for the students.
“The pressure of living up to being an IITian is simply too much,” says Kumar, explaining that it is not just academic pressure but also the expectations of family and society at large — your placement, pay package, designation and even your lifestyle become mere displays to draw public envy.
“We try to tell students to not allow a sheet of paper to define their life” says Srivastava. But does the message sell in a system engineered to define you by your grade sheet?
Addressing the different sources of anxiety for the students, he and his team explain to them that “life doesn’t end here”. “Suppose you don’t get placement, which is a very rare thing, there are still lots of options. The IIT tag itself can bail you out in any situation,” he says, trying to sound convincing.
A few months ago, as part of its efforts to de-stress students, the campus administration had, in consultation with students like Srivastava, decided to turn off the power supply in dorm rooms for a brief period, once a fortnight. This move was meant to coax students to step outdoors, where social activities were planned to give them a chance to interact more with peers, and break away from the isolation of their WiFi-enabled dens.
“But let’s face it, when one of your batchmates dies you don’t want to dance to Bollywood music,” says Kumar, who believes the problem calls for a more serious intervention than just enforced socialising.
At the same time, Srivastava blames the isolated environment of the gated campus for aggravating distress levels among the students, a point that was agreed on by all those this article had reached out to. “When your world shrinks to the size of your campus, which itself is a high-pressured environment, it is really important to make good friends,” agrees Jha, crediting such friendships with the power to help one get through the grind without losing sanity.
A letter purportedly signed by students of IIT-Kharagpur, posted on social media, alleges that during an open session held on October 27 at the college’s Netaji auditorium, the audience was “strongly warned and restricted to ask questions related to the counselling centre and hospital and nothing else”. The letter goes on to say, “It will be the fully orchestrated show of the administration. We wish that the IIT Teachers Association should not leave us alone and stand by us for truth (sic).”
All the college’s professors reached out to for this article declined to comment.
Registrar Pradip Pyne, the only official authorised to speak on the situation, termed the spate of suicides “unfortunate” and said it was “difficult to generalise the exact reason” before quickly adding that the university had taken several corrective measures. Asked to specify these, he requested “several hours to elaborate”. When pressed further, he talked about “the very good counselling mechanism and the wellness programme, which has a centre for happiness that promotes constant interaction and peer-to-peer connection”.
An email addressed to IIT Kharagpur’s Rekhi Centre for Excellence for the Science of Happiness went unanswered.
“We are initiating further steps. We want to do everything to fix the situation,” said Pyne, even as he declined to comment on the administrative lapses, if any, or the state of medical facilities on campus.
A lot of the anger on campus is directed at what the students see as the failure of the administration to improve the situation, but an equal share of that anger is also directed at society at large.
“As a society, we never want to confront mental illness. Perhaps Nikhil and the others could have been saved with more acceptance on the part of the families. It is as much a societal failure as it is of the campus administration,” says Kumar.
Tuesday, November 14, 2017
Letters to the Editor
- BY OUR STAFF REPORTER November 13, 2017
The present time has seen a considerable number of youths committing suicides. These unusual events have smashed the entire society and broken numerous families. The present age is considered as the time of competition, along these lines, students who are unable to ready themselves for competing with others or the individuals who have been confronted by disillusionment in an examination or any other competitive sphere take this perilous step out of frustration.
India has one of the world’s most elevated suicide rates for youth aged between 15-29 years as indicated by a 2012, Lancet report. As per a local daily of Assam recently 50 students from Andhra Pradesh and Telangana have committed suicide because of academic pressure. In this manner, the expanding self-destructive rates have turned into a critical social issue of worry for the nation.
In the last few years, students of these two states have performed incredibly well in competitive exams like lIT-JEE, NEET and so forth. However, on the flipside, students have become prey to the mental torment and stagnation of mind, individuals who couldn’t adapt to it takes the outrageous stride of committing suicide.
A month ago another instance of suicide popped out where a 17-year old young girl Kriti Tripathi jumped to her death since her score in the IIT Mains was not up to her desires. She had composed a five-page letter to her parents, expressing sadness for not being up to their expectation, for her disinterest in engineering and wanting to pursue pure science and furthermore for her eventual action. The girl expressed hopefulness that her parents would encourage her young sister to choose a future of her own.
The real reason for such suicides of promising students is the pressure given by guardians to satisfy their desires which is fundamentally identified with materialistic outlook where upon the general public dwells on.
Another perspective that can be brought up is the issue of mental temperament of a student which is disregarded by our educational organizations and society. Thus it is our obligation to give undivided significance to mental wellness just like our physical wellbeing.
Students these days are stressed and worried about their career and performance. In such circumstances, they need psychological counselling to cope with the competitive situations arid keep the mind in a balanced form to get relief out of anxiety. Hence educational organizations ought to assign psychiatrists for regular counseling to the students.
On the other hand, Likewise parents should also become noticeably cognisant about the issue and ought to understand that rather than just fulfilling the materialistic needs they must motivate their kids to end up plainly a fair and mindful person.
Individuals can do anything with the assistance of brain. Equally, it can break any individual and make him rationally feeble or it can make any individual rationally solid. There is a probability of a miserable end or a plausibility of having an interminable expectation. Along these lines guardians, teachers and coaching centers should put more accentuation on building a solid personality in a sound body.
Pratyush Paras Sarma,
Barak Hostel, IIT Guwahati.
Monday, November 6, 2017
By PTI | Published: 03rd November 2017 09:43 PM |
NEW DELHI: Instances of suicide by IIT aspirants has pushed the apex body for child rights to prepare draft guidelines for hostels for minors.
As per the draft rules prepared by the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR), all hostels will have to be mandatorily registered with a competent authority.
The proposed guidelines apply to coaching institutes, private and government schools, madrassas and 'ashram shalas' or schools for tribal children.
A candidate appointed as a hostel superintendent will have to produce an affidavit that he or she has never been convicted under Juvenile Justice Act, 2015, Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation amendment) Act 2016, and Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (POCSO), 2012.
The person holding the post of the superintendent will also be considered the overall in-charge of the hostel.
"We have fixed roles, duties and qualifications of hostel staff. We have also fixed the minimum infrastructure required, including dormitories and toilets," Priyank Kanoongo, Member, RTE and Education, NCPCR said.
The guidelines also recommend that hostel fees should be collected on monthly or quarterly basis and not annually.
"The fees charged, if any, by the hostel must be regulated by the appropriate government and only be collected on monthly or quarterly basis," as per the guidelines.
"At coaching institutes, we have seen how parents pay a hefty fees at the beginning of the academic session for the entire year and students are not able to withdraw mid-session because of the money invested and eventually commit suicide," Kanoongo said.
Learning from the experience at coaching institutes such as those in Kota where many IIT-aspirants have committed suicide, the NCPCR has also laid down steps to be taken to deal with mental health of students such as employing trained counselors as well as making provisions for "individual therapy".
The regulations also prescribe minimum nutritional intake and diet scales to be followed at these hostels.
The draft guidelines were made public today for a 10-day consultation with stakeholders, following which they will be finalised.
How 6 IIT Kharagpur alumni are helping thousands of farmers, women, and children fight poverty - Your Story
Since 2012, Kaivalya Vichar Seva Samiti provides clothes, food, and education amongst other services to rural farmers, women, and children with the main aim of eradicating poverty and illiteracy in India.
Farmers Meeting on Promotion of Organic Farming
In India, almost 70 percent of the population lives in the village, while their major source of income in rural India still remains agriculture. Yet, the agrarian community faces massive problems such as farmers suicide, droughts, debt, crop failure, and poverty.
To address the problem of the rural farmer, Vishal Singh started Kaivalya Vichar Seva Samiti as an NGO in 2012 with six friends. The aim was to elevate farmers’ lives by providing them with adequate training in agriculture while providing health checkups, education, food and clothing to their families in order to ensure a sustainable environment for village dwellers.
Back in 2011, Vishal, 31, shared his ambition with a few of his friends, while studying Agricultural and Food Engineering in IIT Kharagpur. His desire was to utilise his education to train farmers and elevate them from their distress through his initiative. Being a farmer’s son, Vishal had observed and quietly noted the plight of Indian farmers and farming practices and how they were immensely troubled time and time again by the scarcity of water, failed crops and by debts. While growing up in Varanasi, he realised that Indian farmers were neglected and often looked down upon, and he desired to launch an initiative to help farmers after completing his education.
After deliberating on various pros and cons on starting the initiative, six alumni (including Vishal) of IIT Kharagpur decided to launch Kaivalya Vichar Seva Samiti( KVSS) in 2012.
“Hemant, Ajay Kumar, Ajay Swarnakar, Deepak and Santosh and I had decided to work for farmers and other socio-economic deprived peoples for their livelihood. We had registered a non-profitable organization, KVSS, and selected two villages, namely Soladahar and Gopali, and conducted several meetings with those villagers regarding their problems and priorities”. says Vishal.
The team then decided to implement certain projects such as Anna-Daanam (Food distribution), Siksha-Daanam (Education) and Vastra-Daanam (Clothes distribution) amongst others to address issues that plagued these villagers.
KVSS has nearly 400 volunteers and has successfully trained more than 8,000 farmers in organic and natural farming. Nearly 5,000 socio-economic deprived children have been provided with educational, health and other necessities. KVSS started its operation in West Bengal and Uttar Pradesh and later extended to Odisha in 2013.
The reason for this initiative
In the recent years, it has been observed that the number of farmer suicides and deaths has increased tremendously as they are unable to provide a livelihood for themselves and often succumb to their difficulties.
“My father always used to say ‘We have to bring educated youth back into farming, to make it a renowned dignified occupation otherwise farmers will die in debt only’. Furthermore, I have realised that it is when people don’t have a job at hand or any opportunity in sight only then they will resort to taking on farming. It’s sad to see that nobody wants to be a farmer,” Vishal quips.
He realised that the four main issues that need to be addressed are scarcity of qualitative basic education, scarcity of adequate farming practices, health monitoring and hygienic food and clothes.
Through this initiative, Vishal and his team aim to train farmers in organic and natural farming while providing them with education, health check-ups, food and clothes along with other services to help them cope with their challenges in a better way.
Programmes under this initiative
There are four main programmes under KVSS. Anna-Daanam is a project that provides food to rural children. Whereas, Shiksha- Daanam, Swathya-Daanam and Vastra-Daanam are programmes that provide education, health check-ups and clothes respectively to underprivileged youth and children.
KVSS has also started several evening classes to tutor children, health camps, food distribution camps, blood donation camps and clothes donations with the help of various professors, researchers and volunteers from premier institutions. Their programmes aim to promote skilled education, good health, and eco-friendly, organic farming.
“We are offering various agriculture-related training programmes like preparation of different organic compost, pesticides and plant nutrients; organic integrated farming, bio-intensive farming, nature-eco farming, mushroom cultivation, and green manuring. Apart from that, we train farmers in organic seed production and treatment, cultivation, and processing of medicinal, aromatic and herbal to make them self-sufficient and economically sound,” Vishal explains.
Furthermore, in 2016, KVSS had started its farming model, ‘One Lakh from One Acre’. This model is implemented in Mayurbhanj and Bolangir district of Odisha with the help of other eminent NGOs of Odisha.
“In Mayurbhanj, we have trained more than 500 farmers of Lodha and Santhal Tribes and they have cultivated numerous medicinal plants. In Bolangir district, nearly 2,200 farmers have been trained in organic vegetable and spices cultivation. About 200 farmers hailing from Chilika are trained in earning livelihoods from mangroves, sea weeds and aquatic species,” Vishal says.
This initiative follows a social entrepreneurship model in order to create sources of sustainable and progressive livelihoods by training them in agriculture and allied sectors.
According to Vishal, KVSS is going to be upscaled in the coming years.
“We have decided to expand our varied programmes by keeping in mind that every child should be educated, healthy and happy. Moreover, we want to achieve our goal of training 10,000 farmers every year to ensure a sustainable livelihood for them and want to provide education and health to approximately 1,000 children every year. We are very dedicated in making these goals come true in the future,” he adds.
Till now, nearly 8,900 farmers have been trained by KVSS in organic and natural farming. Many have been skilled in organic growing, organic product manufacturing, kitchen garden promoting, nursery growing and medicinal and herbal plants cultivating. Approximately, 5,000 socio-economic deprived children have got educational, health and other basic support till now.
KVSS believes to further improve the condition of deprived communities by creating livelihood opportunities in the next coming years.
Calling all woman-founded startups in Bengaluru! Facebook and YourStory are organising a meet up focused on helping women entrepreneurs scale their startups with mentorship and marketing tools from Facebook's SheLeadsTech programme. Book your spot for the meetup on Thursday, 9 November 2017 - limited seats available.