Tuesday, October 17, 2017
The Amazon Prime Original series is created by Biswa Kalyan Rath, a stand-up comedian who went to an IIT himself.
Aditya Mani Jha
Writer works at Penguin Random House India. The views expressed here are his own.
To have your protagonist — or one of your primary cast members, at the very least — shoot a YouTube video is becoming a very popular device in both Hollywood and Bollywood. The DIY ethos of such an endeavour communicates an "underdog-on-the-rise" vibe that would, in times gone by, have taken up several scenes and dialogues to establish. And so we have Zaira Wasim YouTubing her way to fame in the upcoming film Secret Superstar. A few years ago, Devi Lal (Salman Khan) fighting off goons in Kick was secretly shot and propelled to online fame. The recent Netflix stoner comedy Disjointed features some hilarious scenes that use this device, not least the ones featuring fan favourites Dank and Dabby, uber-stoners and YouTube stars.
Which is why the first scene of Laakhon Mein Ek felt particularly apt — the protagonist Aakash Gupta (Ritwik Sahore, rock-solid with moments of brilliance) is shooting a YouTube video of himself mimicking various Bollywood actors, calling it "Aakash Ki Aawazein" (Aakash's voices). There was a time when YouTubing your own act had novelty value, but now not so much. This chimes well with the show's double-meaning name: "Laakhon Mein Ek" literally means "one in a million"; a remarkable person or thing. But "one in a million" can also refer to the nameless, faceless everyman, lost in a crowd of near-identical peers. And therein lies the crux of the story: when a very specific achievement is being chased by tens of millions of people, including everyone around you, can you still say you're in pursuit of something special? And when you do reach that specific endpoint, can you still say the whole thing was an exercise in free will?
In the world of this show, this specific endpoint is a seat at an IIT (Indian Institute of Technology). Laakhon Mein Ek, an Amazon Prime original, is set at a Vijayawada residential coaching institute (named "Genius Infinity" with straight-faced hyperbole) which feels like a composite of every coaching class horror story you have ever heard. At the beginning of the show, we see Aakash's parents soft-coercing him into joining Genius Infinity, even though he himself is convinced that he has no aptitude for science. Despite his low marks in the Class X board examinations (55 per cent), Aakash's parents are convinced that hard work and sheer will are enough to close the gap, to overcome the odds.
The odds, as Aakash finds out, are enormous. From the day he steps inside Genius Infinity, it is clear that everything is stacked against him. He has been placed in the infamous Section D, allotted to students in lowest bracket of Class X marks. Section D students are stuffed in painfully cramped rooms, they receive the worst food, classroom teaching is virtually non-existent and for the most part, they are left to their own devices. And all this while actually paying more than sections A-C, who receive "scholarships" on account of having higher Class X marks. In this hostile atmosphere, Aakash quickly makes friends with two fellow Section D travellers, Chudail (Alam Khan, delightfully uninhibited) and Bakri (Jay Thakkar, starts off as a caricature but comes into his own nicely). The Genius Infinity racket is steered with an iron fist by Mr Moorthy and his man Friday, Bala.
Once the initial, predictable comedic hijinks are out of the way (these do include some enjoyable tomfoolery, still, courtesy Chudail), the show gets down to what I see as its two big themes: a) Privilege and b) the tyranny of the bourgeois Indian hivemind.
Laakhon Me Ek has been created by Biswa Kalyan Rath, the up-and-coming stand-up comedian who went to an IIT himself.
Let us discuss the latter first. Aakash's parents, the Guptas, are drawn with broad brushstrokes, true. But they remain representative of the salaried middle-class in India. Mr Gupta has a distinctly Nehruvian belief in the indomitable power of hard work and sincerity: he is austere, unrelenting, and uses the moral high ground to power through whenever he senses Aakash resisting his bullying. Mrs Gupta is, well, a somewhat lazily written mother. I would have liked to see her doing something other than conduct pujas and feed her son and try to tone down Mr Gupta's stentorian heat (all well-established Reema Lagoo territory). But within those constraints, she plays her part well.
And now for the P-word: Privilege. Laakhon Mein Ek has been created by Biswa Kalyan Rath, the up-and-coming stand-up comedian who went to an IIT himself; IIT Kharagpur, in fact (in the interests of full disclosure, so did this writer, and at the same time). And although the episodes are directed by Abhishek Sengupta, Rath has co-written the screenplay with Vaspar Dandiwala. In a recent interview, Rath said that one of the starting points of the show was his experience playing school-level sports: specifically, being expected to compete with moneyed CBSE schools while attending a government-run school which had practically no sports equipment, no ground, and no signs of ever improving.
This experience has definitely informed the Section A/Section D dynamic in Laakhon Mein Ek. When Aakash contemplates cheating in order to "jump" from Section D to Section A, we are told that nobody has managed this ever, in all the years that Genius Infinity has seen.
But Section A students are only Section A because they capitalised on their privilege to achieve higher Class X marks. Moreover, most of them have been attending IIT coaching classes since Class VIII, thus earning them a three-year head start on the Section D boys. And when you consider that their spacious living quarters, better food and passionate, involved teachers are effectively being paid for by the Section D parents, you realise what is going on.
This is a pack of hyenas, ripping off the flesh of the poor, offering most of it to the rich, predatory lions as jungle tribute — and gulping down the rest. But even here, Rath and co complicate the narrative further: almost-but-not-quite by accident, we learn that Chandu, the nerdiest, most annoying member of Section A, belongs to an unspecified lower caste, which he admits while being questioned by Bakri, a well-off Brahmin not particularly concerned about his IIT chances.
Suddenly, we see Chandu's supposedly annoying habits in a new light: he has to pursue his studies with single-minded fervour, even when he is humiliated for it by his "cooler" classmates, because the caste privileges that cushion the likes of Bakri are not an option for him. It is a casually brilliant moment, one which Rath and his co-writers should be very happy about.
And yet, this is also where I feel Laakhon Mein Ek should have done a bit more. How does caste feed into the insidious, one-size-fits-all idea of "merit"? How does this "merit" then translate into a convenient catchword that brushes just about any discrimination under the carpet? How do the likes of Bakri et al grow up into IITians treating their Dalit classmates like dirt? Manish Kumar from IIT Roorkee killed himself in 2011.
Madhuri Sale from IIT Kanpur killed herself in 2010. Mallepallu Srikant from IIT Bombay killed himself in 2007. In some of these cases, there were horrific posts by their own classmates that basically said, "We're sorry but this is what happens when you put IIT-level pressure on someone not 'meritorious' enough to deal with it."
In the case of Aniket Ambhore, an IIT Bombay student, his professors had said basically the same thing to his parents, in a letter written shortly before his suicide, suggesting that the Ambhores move their son to a "normal" engineering college.
Scenes featuring a non-Brahmin character's frustration at caste privilege are rare enough for an Indian web series — and I've already praised the show for it — but I can't help but feel that an opportunity was missed here. The Section D story is a much-needed step in the right direction, but why not go whole hog and say it out aloud, D for Dalit? Why not hire Dalit writers and actors to tell their own stories?
To sum up, I will say this, in the interests of fairness: The things I'm asking for are things that zero Indian shows have delivered so far. And therefore, measured in those terms, Laakhon Mein Ek is a success, smartly written, competently shot with a no-frills aesthetic, and brilliantly acted. Which is why it's all the more important that we demand these things of creators like Rath, of relatively new and unencumbered platforms like Amazon Prime.
Who else are we going to demand things from, Chetan Bhagat?
TNN | Oct 16, 2017, 09:19 IST
HYDERABAD: Students from the Telugu states might be at the top when it comes to securing IIT seats, but unfortunately , they are also leading the list when it comes to suicide.Since the beginning of the academic year, about 100 students have committed suicide. The number of student suicides in AP and Telangana has already reached 50 this month.
While government is yet to respond on the issue, student organizations have given a bandh call in educational institutions on Monday .
Activists blamed these suicides on the pressure to excel in studies and the absense of counsellors in colleges. Several educationalists blamed violent video games.
"During 1995 to 2000, more than 1,400 students committed suicide and the government had formed a committee to look into reasons for these suicides. After thorough study, the committee recommended having counsellors in the colleges. But unfortunately, no college has implemented the recommendation and it's high time they do it as the current situ ation is more or less same," said P Madhusudhan Reddy, president, Government Inter Colleges Association.
He further said as per the committee's recommendation, a criminal case should be booked against the college management. "These days, students spend a lot of time on mobile watching videos and playing games. Most of these games are violent and this in turn is making them violent, which is encouraging them to hurt themselves or someone else," said Amaranth V , an educationalist.
Taking the recent case of an intermediate student leaving home due to academic pressure, child right activists said that criminal case should be booked against the educational institutions when a child commits suicide or harms himself.
Activists say the education department should act quickly as tens of students are committing suicide. City psychologists further said that forcing students to follow a `prison-like regime' will either make them aggressive or depressed and added that parents should seek help for their wards.
ABVP declares state-wide bandh
The Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) declared state-wide bandh of corporate educational institutions on Monday following series of student suicide.
According to a media communique issued by ABVP, they will protest against the Telangana government's negligence towards the issue. "In the past three years, the government has been silent on the student suicides in corporate educational institutions. It is time that the government cracks a whip on these institutions to save future of lakhs of students," said Javvaji Dileep, Hyderabad city secretary of ABVP.
Monday, October 16, 2017
Harmless hostel rite or sadistic abuse? IIT-Kanpur suspensions put focus back on ragging - Scroll.In
The engineering college has suspended 22 students for ragging, 16 of them for three years.
Published Oct 13, 2017 · 06:30 am
Shivam Yadav’s bruises have long faded but emotionally, he is still scarred.
After dinner one April night in 2013, seven to eight senior students cornered him in his hostel room at Devi Ahilya Vishwavidyalaya in Indore and rained blows upon him. Some used sticks, others their bare hands. One blow caught Yadav on the neck and left him gasping for breath. The attackers fled. That session of violent ragging ended with Yadav making a trip to the emergency room.
“But that was not the worst part,” said Yadav, who graduated with a degree in pharmacy last year and now works with a multinational food and drink company in Gwalior. “That was the mental abuse I suffered for the whole year leading to that night.”
He said that he was verbally abused, frequently beaten and received no support from university officials. “It ruined my career,” he said. “I was not able to focus and later, when I complained, college authorities were hostile to me. I stood up for myself but it changed me. I get angry very easily, even violent, if I feel someone is being wronged.”
Yadav agrees with the findings of the Supreme Court-initiated study, Psychosocial Study of Ragging in Selected Educational Institutions in India (2015). In Yadav’s case, some students were expelled from the hostel after he lodged a complaint with the anti-ragging helpline of the University Grants Commission – India’s higher education regulator – in July 2013.
On Monday, the Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur, suspended 16 second-year students for three years, and six for one year, for ragging. First-year students had filed a mass complaint in August alleging, among other things, that they had been forced to strip. “This is the first time the institution has taken action against ragging in a decade,” said a senior faculty member who did not wish to be identified.
The faculty member found that there have been similar ragging cases in Kanpur and other IITs, which did not lead to complaints. Another student who graduated last year attested to this. “My friends told us [about the ragging] when were in third year,” said the student.
The ‘buzzer game’
A committee constituted on a 2009 Supreme Court order studied, for the first time, the prevalence and causes of ragging over 2012 to 2015. The Psychosocial Study involved a survey of 10,632 students in 37 colleges, most of them professional ones, interviews with 187 students and group discussions.
The report, made public in August, observes:
“The fact that ragging occurs among youth means that youth-specific developmental issues such as the need to belong and be accepted within the peer world, and the excitement and anxiety about becoming an adult, including that around sexuality, play an important role in ragging.”
This explains both the forms of ragging and the students’ reluctance to complain. The IIT-Kanpur student who graduated last year was told her batchmates had played “the buzzer game” in their first year. It involves stripping and answering questions. “If you give a wrong or stupid answer, you are asked to touch the other person [on the genitals] but only for a second, like pressing a buzzer,” she said. “But no one complained, and by third year everyone was laughing about it.” According to her, the ragging period, an initiation rite, lasts for about 10 days in an IIT.
For students like Yadav, it can last for months.
According to the study, ragging is most prevalent in medical colleges where 48.3% students reported they were ragged, including 3.8% who said they were “severely ragged”. Among engineering students, 44.5% said they were ragged, 4.6% severely. Also, 4.2% said they experienced beatings and physical punishments, and 1.4% reported sexual ragging.
The study found that while 35.7% students believe “ragging prepares students to deal with the harshness of the outside world”, about an equal number – 35.5% – think it has “long-lasting emotional effect”.
That the absence of complaints regarding ragging does not mean endorsement of the practice is evident from letters the IIT-Kanpur professor received in response to his posts on the practice on social media. Students and alumni of IITs in Kharagpur, Banaras Hindu University and Guwahati wrote back to him on the subject. “I saw the same description and terminology [in their letters],” said the IIT-Kanpur professor.
Students reported that the senior who occupied the hostel room before them becomes their baap (father) and boss. “All new students spend one night in the rooms of their baaps,” he said. “They can be made to sit in the nude for hours, touch each other or roam the wing wearing their underwear over their trousers. I offered to file a police complaint on behalf of the student in Guwahati but he refused.”
Afraid to complain
Students and teachers said that in IITs, although first-year students are given the option to leave or even refuse to participate while being ragged, very few do because of peer pressure and the fear of being targeted later. Elsewhere, as in the case of Yadav, seniors react differently to disobedience.
The importance of seniors is impressed upon new entrants from the start. “Juniors fear they will become a joke if they refuse to participate, that their seniors will not help them,” said the IIT professor. “The promised reward is the friendship and help of seniors over the next three years.”
Students also fear a social boycott, a harrowing experience in student residences, added Gaurav Singhal, who studied chemical engineering at IIT-Kanpur from 1998-2002. He now teaches and volunteers with Delhi-based anti-ragging non-profit, Society Against Violence in Education, or Save.
Complaints rarely yield effective action.
Yadav, who joined his institute in 2012 had complied with all demands of song and dance performances. He started protesting when he was allegedly ordered to buy liquor and cigarettes and re-enact porn scenes. “This provoked the seniors,” he said. “They ordered a boycott, abused me and grew more violent.” Before calling the University Grants Commission, Yadav had complained to university officials multiple times. But he alleged that each time, they merely informed the perpetrators about the complaint who redoubled their abuse as payback.
The University Grants Commission’s regulations on ragging, framed in 2009 in response to another Supreme Court case on the subject, place the onus of both prevention and action upon the institution.
“We opposed this,” said Meera Kaura Patel, a Supreme Court lawyer and Save’s legal head. “The institution has vested interests. Its reputation is at stake and in many cases, they tell students to compromise and not file FIRs [First Information Reports with the police].”
The IITs have a different problem. “From about 2006, the disciplinary committees stopped punishments [for ragging] fearing suicides,” said the IIT-Kanpur professor.
“Over 2006-’08, there were about ten to eleven suicides. Even in the couple of cases where termination [orders] were given [for other reasons], the concerned students were allowed to appeal after a semester and the senate allowed them to resume.”
Over the last decade ragging, a practice that had practically ended in IIT-Kanpur around 2006, has resumed. “In fact, the suspended students argued they had been similarly ragged, that it is the culture of hostels and that the faculty would not understand it,” said the senior faculty member from IIT-Kanpur.
But ragging has also destroyed careers. As lawyer Meera Kaura Patel explained, many victims abandon their studies, even coveted medical college seats, to escape ragging. She recounted a 2012 case from a public medical college in Tamil Nadu in which a second-year student, trying to protect a junior from ragging, entered into a fight with his senior. “Before he could file a police complaint, the senior students had already filed a false one [against him],” she said. “He was terrified and left.”
Another student, from the School of Planning and Architecture in Delhi, is fighting it out in the Delhi High Court but had to abandon his studies.
“He had cleared the exam in 2012 after trying for two to three years,” said Patel. “He was made to perform physical exercises with bricks on his back and tore a ligament. He returned home in Jharkhand for treatment but fell short of attendance and the institute refused to let him write his exam.” His explanation and complaint of ragging drew no sympathy, said Patel. “And these cases usually have no witnesses because others have to continue in the same institution,” she said, adding that she believes IIT-Kanpur took action because students complained as a group.
Patel also believes that the only way to hold an institution accountable is by filing a First Information Report. “The UGC [University Grants Commission] regulation requires institutions to file an FIR within 24 hours of receiving a complaint which IIT-Kanpur did not,” she said. Activists from Save intend to lean on IIT-Kanpur to file an FIR too.
We welcome your comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Saturday, October 14, 2017
Wednesday, October 11, 2017
October 9, 2017
Hyderabad: Indian Institute of Technology Hyderabad hosted its first ‘Human Library event ‘ on Sunday, 08th October 2017.
The idea of ‘Human Library’ was conceptualized in the year 2000 by Ronni Abergel, a social activist, and was first launched in Copenhagen, Denmark. It was designed to build a positive framework for conversations that can challenge stereotypes and prejudices through dialogue. The Human Library now has above 600 book depots worldwide. The Hyderabad chapter was founded by Harshad Fad.
In the events organized by Human Library, individuals from stigmatized sections of the society that are stereotyped based on their ethnicity, religion, sexuality, disability, occupation, social status or lifestyle volunteer as ‘books.’ The readers are free to choose these human ‘books’ from a catalogue. The ‘books’ then share their life experiences with a group of readers and an interactive session follows.
Speaking about the event, Prof. Haripriya Narasimhan, Head, Department of Liberal Arts, IIT Hyderabad, said, “The Department of Liberal Arts endeavours to expose our students to different perspectives of our lives as experienced by ordinary people, so that they can locate their disciplinary practices and objectives within the larger society. The Human Library is one such event which will enable the young minds on campus to understand the deep-rooted prejudices and also how the human spirit allows us to overcome these differences.”
IIT Hyderabad hosted a total of 12 ‘books’ in collaboration with the Hyderabad Chapter of the Human Library. The objective of the event is to help facilitate understanding of individual differences and the dynamics of marginality among the student community.
The reading session comprised the books’ narration of their life experiences followed by an interactive session. The excitement of the students was perceptible as they lined up for the book reading sessions.
A total of five sessions were conducted and each session had approximately 5-8 readers per book. The books entitled “Chains of Freedom” and “Price of Smiling” were particularly popular with the readers. The book “Price of Smiling,” narrated the inspiring story of her struggle with clinical depression and her return from the brink of suicide. The session for “Chains of Freedom” was an amalgamation of engaging theatrics, intriguing propositions and astounding adventures. The book spoke about the politics of identity, nationalism and boundaries while justifying his vision for a world without borders.
The idea behind this event is that the readers should go back a bit wiser for having read these books and the books a bit happier for having interacted with such bright and enthusiastic readers.
Thursday, October 5, 2017
Stuck in a deeply entrenched patriarchal society, Indian women face many battles in medicine, science and technology. Families who expect women to conform to traditional gender roles and a deeply biased workplace — all contribute to women leaving jobs in STEM fields
EDITORIALS Updated: Sep 28, 2017 16:56 Ist
Science, technology, engineering, and medicine – together known as ‘STEM’ fields – suffer from a glaring lack of women, especially in India. This should be eliciting far more worry than it is. Year after year, in school exam results, we hear of how girls have outshone boys, but when it comes to those who take up research in later life, the number of women is minuscule. This means that many of our best brains that showed the maximum potential do not pick research as a career.
Stuck in a deeply entrenched patriarchal society, Indian women face many battles before they can make it to the highest levels of STEM. As President Kovind noted at the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research’s (CSIR) 76th foundation day, of all those who joined an Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), only about 10% were women. Those in PhD and post doctoral research are even fewer. This situation, as the President correctly observed, is distressing. The scientific community is known to be hard on women, constantly making it hard for them to rise in the field. A Kelly Global Workforce Insights (KGWI) survey on Women in STEM showed that 81% of women in STEM fields in India perceived a gender bias in performance evaluation. Such hostile work culture, coupled with the pressures of home is making women leave STEM professions.
Earlier this year, a promising PhD scholar from IIT Delhi committed suicide, allegedly under pressure from her husband and in-laws for dowry and to give up her research dreams. Her father, in despair after her death, had told the Hindustan Times that he wished he had saved money for her dowry instead of investing in her education. This is one of the most fundamental problems. Women have to handle not just the blatantly misogynist scientific community, but also the pressures of family to conform to traditional gender roles. Many women are routinely told that they cannot be hired for high ranking positions because they either have children or will have children in the future. The underlying assumption is that a woman with a family will give more attention to her home than her job.
The loser in this scenario is not just women who do not get a chance to chase their dreams; but also science itself, which fails to benefit from other points of view. It is not enough to lament the lack of women in STEM fields. Government agencies, universities, and society must work together to ensure that our hiring practices are free from the insidious sexism that keeps women from achieving their full potential.
Wednesday, September 27, 2017
The police said he was grappling with depression and was dissatisfied with his job
GURGAON Updated: Sep 26, 2017 09:04 Ist
The man jumped from his uncle’s residence in DLF Magnolias.(HT File Photo)
A 26-year-old graduate of the Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur, allegedly committed suicide by jumping to death from the 23rd floor of a posh apartment building on Golf Course road late Sunday evening. Police said he was grappling with depression for the last 16 months.
The deceased, identified as Ankit Wadhwa, allegedly jumped from his uncle’s apartment in DLF Magnolias as he was depressed and dissatisfied with his job.
Wadhwa hailed from Sriganganagar in Rajasthan and used to work in Mumbai. He was also planning to get a masters degree in business administration, said Gaurav Phogat, station house officer of Sushant Lok police station.
He had come to Gurgaon on Sunday to appear for an entrance test to a management institute. However, late Sunday evening, he jumped from his uncle’s apartment and died, the police said.
The parents of the deceased have been called and the body would be handed to them after a post-mortem examination. Ravinder Kumar, a spokesperson for Gurgaon police, said that action has been initiated under Section 174 of the IPC at the Sushant Lok police station.
GURUGRAM, SEPTEMBER 26, 2017 02:18 IST
A 26-year-old IIT-Kanpur graduate allegedly leaped to his death from the 23rd floor of a high-rise at DLF Magnolias here early on Sunday.
Ankit Wadhwa, a resident of Sri Ganganagar in Rajasthan, had come to Gurugram to appear for his GMAT exam in Delhi on Monday. He was staying at his paternal uncle's flat on Golf Course Road.
He went to his room after dinner around 10:30 p.m. and was allegedly found dead on the ground floor four hours later. The matter came to light when the security guard heard a loud thud and discovered the body lying in a pool of blood. No suicide note has been found, the police said.
‘He was depressed’
His uncle and aunt and the couple's son and daughter-in-law were inside the flat when the alleged incident took place around 2:00 a.m.
Station House Officer, Sushant Lok Police Station, Inspector Gaurav Phogat said that Ankit had been depressed for over a year and was undergoing treatment for the same. “He had some career-related issues and was depressed,” said Mr. Phogat.
He had earlier worked with J.P Morgan company in Mumbai for over two years, said the police. The family has been informed about the incident and the body will be handed over to them after post-mortem, the police said.
Thursday, September 21, 2017
At least 22 second-year students verbally and sexually abused a group of juniors on campus earlier this month.
The IITs are at it again, doing what they've always done with great efficiency. It's a simple, three-part process.
1. Turn a blind eye to rampant sexual abuse and/or psychological torture on campus — until the sh*t well and truly hits the fan.
2. Watch aghast as a massive incident inevitably happens — like the one at IIT Kanpur earlier this month, where at least 22 second-year students verbally and sexually abused a group of first-year students.
3. Employ every trick in the book to deny, obfuscate or otherwise play down said incident, in order to protect a rapidly eroding, soon-to-be-non-existent "reputation".
Here's the Times of India report on what happened: Note the deputy director of the institute saying that "more than one student" was harassed by the 22 second-year students (this number, 22, is also courtesy a professor's blog and Facebook posts, not any official communication from IIT Kanpur). I seem to remember from my own math classes at IIT that "more than one" can mean as little as 2 (the number of people who killed themselves in my hostel, during 2007-2012, my stint at IIT Kharagpur; if you include other hostels as well, the toll reaches double digits for these 5 years alone) or as many as 16 (the number of confirmed student suicides in IITs alone from 2008-2011).
So which was it, sir, 2 or 16? Or was the number so embarrassingly large that you had to fall back on your usual lies and deception?
Tuesday, September 19, 2017
Summary: The Dharavi police said Puja Kamble and Tushar Kamble, 25, fell in love after meeting at a workplace four years ago and tied the knot on April 23. The claim Puja was mentally sick and had undergone treatment for it through an NGO.”
READ:Delhi: 24-year-old woman set on fire by husband, in-laws, suspected dowry death Also, Tushar’s mother Pratiksha, 49, used to taunt her that her father gave them low quality materials in dowry. After her suicide, her father registered an FIR under section 306, 498 A and 34 of IPC against the trio. Soon after their wedding, Puja saw Tushar celebrate a woman’s birthday in Borivli national park when he had told her that he was at work.
A man, his brother and mother have been arrested for allegedly torturing his 23-year-old wife to the extent that she was forced to kill herself at their residence in Dharavi. The Dharavi police said Puja Kamble and Tushar Kamble, 25, fell in love after meeting at a workplace four years ago and tied the knot on April 23. Puja’s father, a videographer, also gave dowry to Tushar’s family. Soon after their wedding, Puja saw Tushar celebrate a woman’s birthday in Borivli national park when he had told her that he was at work. When she confronted him, Tushar and the other women with him beat her up, said the police , As Reported By Hindustan Times.
According to the Newspaper,Also, Tushar’s mother Pratiksha, 49, used to taunt her that her father gave them low quality materials in dowry.
READ: Should’ve saved for dowry instead of IIT, says father of PhD scholar found dead On July 12, Puja filed a non-cognizable complaint under section 504 of IPC against her in-laws at Dharavi police station. A day before she committed suicide on September 10, her neighbour had called her father to inform him that she could hear Puja scream after being abused and assaulted by her in-laws. After her suicide, her father registered an FIR under section 306, 498 A and 34 of IPC against the trio. Senior police inspector Suryakant Bangar of Dharavi police said, “She did not leave a suicide note but based on other evidences and her father’s FIR, we have arrested the three.
THE HANS INDIA | Sep 18,2017 , 12:04 AM IST
Vijayawada: An Intermediate senior student of Narayana IIT College at Gudavalli allegedly committed suicide by hanging at his hostel room on Sunday.
According to reports, the boy was identified as P Eswar Reddy of Piduguralla in Guntur district. He was chided by a lecturer during the examination on Sunday morning. The lecturer scolded him for indulging in mass copying. The lecturer was also thrashed him, it was alleged.
Unable to cope with the insult meted out to him at the hands of lecturer, the hurt student directly went to his hostel room from the examination venue and hanged from ceiling fan.
The incident rocked the student fraternity as they have been agitating for Minister Narayana’s scalp. The body of student was at Kamineni Hospitals where the students and leaders of student unions gathered.
The students alleged that action was not taken against the college management as it belonged to Minister Narayana. They accused him of misusing authority to suppress such cases of student suicides. The students raised slogans against the Minister and demanded that the Chief Minister remove him from the Cabinet.
The Minister was not showing much interest in the college affairs and as a result the students are being treated badly at his institutions, the agitating students alleged.Both the college management and the police are not available to the media to take their version in this case.
Wednesday, September 13, 2017
As elite scientific institutions ignore socio-economic realities to bypass reservation in the name of quality, students from marginalised backgrounds continue to suffer.
Students during their protest demanding justice for S. Anitha and urging the central government to ban NEET. Credit: PTI
India’s higher education system has claimed yet another Dalit life as the struggle to democratise it meets with another failure. Anitha, who excelled in the Tamil Nadu State Board high school examination, had to resort to suicide when all doors of getting a medical seat were closed on her. This resulted from the Madras high court and Supreme Court quashing the petition to exempt Tamil Nadu from the ambit of the National Entrance-cum-Eligibility Test (NEET), in which Anitha was herself an impleader.
Her death, 20 months after the suicide of Rohith Vemula at University of Hyderabad, reaffirms that there is an effort to keep higher education an exclusive domain, inaccessible and inhospitable to students from the most marginalised communities.
Anitha was aware of the ways in which higher education is becoming exclusionary. She mentioned these problems in her appeal to the Supreme Court – that it was not about her aptitude but a different syllabus that required her to take coaching classes that she could not afford. She questioned the implicit distrust of state board examinations, which results in the creation of national gatekeeping mechanisms like NEET, Indian Insutitute of Technology Joint Entrace Examination (IIT-JEE), All India Engineering Entrance Examination (AIEEE) and All India Institutes of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) exam in the name of standardisation.
We wouldn’t expect the high court and the Supreme Court to intentionally take decisions that aid the keeping of marginalised communities out of the higher education system. Then, under what circumstances does the judiciary play into the hands of the problematic discourse of merit that by design is exclusive in nature? Why, even after 67 years of being a constitutional republic, do we continue to fall into such traps that don’t allow the excluded groups to access opportunities of higher education?
Judiciary’s recurring blindness to ‘positive discrimination’
To understand the root of this problem, one needs to revisit the year when the constitution of India came into operation and the petition filed by Champakam Dorairajan opposing caste-based reservation in electoral constituencies. In 1950, like 2017, it was the Madras high court and Supreme Court that took the stance that providing reservation for political and educational opportunities is in violation of Article 15 of the constitution, which prohibits discrimination on the grounds of religion, race, caste, sex, or place of birth.
In response to this problematic reading of Article 15, the first amendment to India’s constitution was brought to encourage “positive discrimination,” and clause 4 was added to the article, which stated that “Nothing in this article or in clause (2) of Article 29 shall prevent the state from making any special provision for the advancement of any socially and educationally backward classes of citizens or for the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes.”
The judiciary, dominated by savarna men, has time and again shown caste and gender blindness in the name of equality while completely ignoring the lived experience of disadvantaged sections of society. This has led to a long history of mistaken judgments, like in the case of NEET.
How IITs and AIIMS have placed an unfair burden on marginalised students
Since 1950, the struggle has been to keep the spirit of this ruling alive despite efforts to challenge the democratisation of education. In the higher educational context, it begins with the focus on setting up elite institutions in science and technology, with IIT Kharagpur being set up in 1951 and AIIMS in 1956.
With the aim of nurturing the “best minds,” the entrance examination for IITs and AIIMS was devised to select “meritorious” candidates who could then be further supported. The aims of social justice were completely ignored in this endeavour as the reservation policy was introduced much later in 1973, that too with a clause that institutes of national importance can formulate their own schema instead of remaining accountable to the public.
Many elite scientific institutions continue to use this clause to completely bypass reservation in the name of quality. This fallacy of putting quality and merit in opposition to reservation has been the root of the current crisis in higher education, whose repercussions continue to fall upon the Dalit and Adivasi students.
This discourse of quality and merit in education, which is being gauged by isolated entrance examinations, does complete disservice to both the idea of merit and the constitutional aims of social justice. This dominant educational psychology, which locates intelligence in an individual, completely ignores the role of socio-economic privileges in being able to access support systems, be it nutritional, educational, economical, or social.
What more did Anitha need to do?
For a student like Anitha, a girl from Dalit background whose father is a daily wage labourer and with no mother, its evident that her access to support systems was decimal compared to a student from the middle class or an upper caste. Given the lack of a level playing field, can merit only be measured by the student’s performance in a common entrance test and not take into account the social realities that play a huge role in her access to opportunities? Despite her disadvantageous background and situation, Anitha was able to score 98% in the state board examination.
Did she still need to prove her merit by performing well in a national-level examination conducted by the CBSE board, which has a different syllabus than the state-run government schools that most disadvantaged students access? This is why Anitha petitioned the court – because she knew that adapting to NEET for young aspirants like her would involve the expensive coaching infrastructure, which they simply cannot access.
Tamil Nadu has been witnessing massive protests by students unions and youth outfits ever since the death of Anitha. Credit: PTI
She approached the court because she knew that the distrust of people like her was becoming institutionalised by exams like NEET, IIT-JEE, AIEEE and AIIMS. Even colleges like Birla Institute of Technology and Science, Pilani, which earlier admitted students based on state board results, have moved to a national-level examination. The pertinent question to ask here is why is there such an impetus for centralisation of entrance exams for higher education and what role do they actually serve?
Discrimination begins at school
Here, one needs to make a distinction between school and higher education in India because the problem lies in the cusp. In the context of schooling, there is a prevalent myth that the “quality” of government schools are bad in comparison to the private schools, and thus there has been a mass exodus to private schools for anyone who can afford.
Private schools have also tried to moderate their fees to attract lower classes who see education as the only promise of a better future. Although there has been enough research to challenge this myth by comparing the learning levels of students from both government and private schools, it persist.
However, when it comes to higher education, there is no doubt that public universities like IITs, AIIMS, Indian Institutes of Management, Jawaharlal Nehru University, University of Hyderabad and Delhi University are coveted institutions for most aspiring students.
This also has to do with the spending of educational budget, where the lion’s share goes to few institutes of higher education while neglecting primary and secondary education. The option to exit the public institutions for a more exclusive private one is not available in the higher educational space. Thus, while government schools have been exited by the upper castes on the pretext of quality, and any attempt to democratise private schools through the Right to Education is met with stiff opposition, exiting public universities in a similar fashion is not an option. Hence, the stakes are elevated in claiming the higher educational space, and only reservation policies continue to provide a glimmer of hope for democratising these spaces. The only way to subvert this democratic aim is by putting more roadblocks, such as that of gatekeeping examinations, which would eventually tire out the marginalised communities in their struggle to enter public spaces.
Anitha was at this cusp between school and higher education, and the promise of transforming her life by getting into a government medical college was real. With state board examination results, she would have easily secured a seat in a premium college. However, that would have only been the beginning of a long struggle inside the campus where reservation is used as an excuse to undermine one’s merit and the place they deserve in a university.
The 2007 Thorat Committee report explicates the magnitude of caste discrimination in elite institutions like AIIMS where not only students but also faculty from SC/ST background are continually excluded in the garb of being non-meritorius and undeserving.
A file photo shows parents of the students preparing for medical entrance exams forming a human chain to protest NEET. Credit: PTI
I observed a similar discrimination during my undergraduate studies at IIT Delhi where I saw an elaborate framework of ‘graded inequality’, to use Ambedkar’s conception of caste, at play based on the all India ranking (AIR). This AIR, which is different for general and reserved seats, along with one’s socio-geographic location, known from one’s name, appearance and spoken language, would determine the graded respect one commanded in social life. With an utter disregard towards social justice, savarna students would continually humiliate SC/ST/minority students by employing the (false) merit argument, eventually making the higher educational space hostile for them.
Many such students who have been unable to tolerate this undignified life have resorted to committing suicide. This is viewed as a weakness of that individual to not be able to cope with the high standards of the university, further reifying the anti-reservation stance.
Amebdkar knew that the biggest challenge to democratisation of India is the graded hierarchy of caste and gender, and therefore, without annihilating caste, all our efforts would boil down to nothing. However, instead of dealing with caste directly we have only managed to hide the exclusion through the discourse of ‘individual’ merit. Generations then accumulate this privilege. Public universities have become the most contested spaces as they allow for the possibility of democratising exclusive spaces and becoming exemplars for the society.
However, what we have seen with Anitha, Vemula and many others is that all our attempts towards democratisation are constantly demolished by Brahminical appropriation of merit and quality. To annihilate these new mechanisms of exclusion and truly democratise the universities, we need to challenge the gatekeeping examinations and anti-reservation rhetoric that continue to undermine constitutional ideals. Such discourse simply has no place in the republic of India.
Asim Siddiqui teaches philosophy at Azim Premji University, Bangalore.
Tuesday, September 12, 2017
Huge gap in demand and supply of medical practitioners for mental health, says Neerja Birla - Money Control
Sep 10, 2017 10:46 AM IST | Source: Moneycontrol.com
WHO said that India has 15.7 suicides per 100,000 people in 2015. The average for South East Asia was 12.9 suicides per 100,000 people.
Every three seconds, a person attempts suicide. And if you notice the red flags on time, you will be able to prevent it.
Neerja Birla, Founder and Chairperson of Mpower, a firm specialising in offering care and allied services for mental health said there is still a huge gap in treatment for mental health issues in India.
September 10 is observed globally as World Suicide Prevention Day to create awareness about mental health and also help observe early signs to aid prevention. The World Health Organization estimates over 800,000 people die by suicide each year, that’s one person every 40 seconds.
“In India, there are 3800 psychiatrists, 898 clinical psychologists, 850 psychiatric social workers and 1500 psychiatric nurses. This is very small. This translates to 3 psychiatrists per million people and according to WHO, this is 18 times fewer than the Commonwealth norm which is 5.6 psychiatrists per 100,000 people,” said Birla. She said the country is short of 6200 psychiatrists.
In March, the Mental Healthcare Bill was passed by the Parliament that decriminalises suicide and encourages coverage for mental health-related ailments. Birla said this has also also increased the funding to centres of excellence in mental health which will boost efforts to create awareness and provide support.
However, basic facilities like insurance is still being talked about. Regular medical reimbursement programmes offered by corporates also do not cover either medication or visits to the therapists for mental health issues.
If you are running a fever, you never see any stigma associated with picking up the phone and talking to a doctor. There is a certain schema there that anything to do with our mind makes us weak and vulnerable. We do not want to then admit to it,” said Birla.
Mpower, which started its Mumbai centre in May 2016, is now looking to expand to other cities as well. “Opening our first counselling cell at BITS Pilani, Goa for the campus. We want to take it to Pune and Bangalore and also want to target university campuses and have reached out to instituites like IIT Madras,” she said.
While Mpower and other institutions like them have been reaching to educational institutes and corporates, Birla said that it is still early days. In their outreach programme, Mpower offers free workshops to schools and also encourage them to take a student-assisted programme. They will also be opening up a helpline next year.
“In Mumbai, we reached out to 180 schools in Mumbai we reached out too, but only five have said yes. Why are we shirking it under the carpet and not giving it due importance? People are talking about it but when it comes into taking action, it is slow,” she added.
According to research, the first one minute where a person contemplates suicide is the most crucial. Birla said that through their campaign, they have been trying to create an awareness about this and encourage individuals, especially youngsters between the age of 18-30 years to seek help and also listen to people in need of help.
Friday, September 8, 2017
Wednesday, September 6, 2017
We as a nation owe an apology to Anitha.
04/09/2017 4:49 PM IST |G Pramod Kumar Contributing Editor, HuffPost India
HINDUSTAN TIMES VIA GETTY IMAGES
There's a lot of anger and anguish that's still erupting in Tamil Nadu over the suicide of Anitha, the Dalit girl who was the visible face of the state's resistance to the central government's national medical entrance examination, the NEET.
For Anitha and thousands of meritorious students like her, who would have otherwise gotten into medical schools, what was snatched away was their hard-earned sovereign right to higher education in an increasingly centralising India.
In a "Union of States", where the architects of our Constitution had rightly ensured that the states had sufficient autonomy to manage their affairs, instruments such as NEET is an anomaly. In the case of Anitha, it was also a symbol for the tyranny of the Centre that took away what rightfully belonged to her and the states. NEET was a strange beast that young people such as Anitha were unable to figure out because her education under the Tamil Nadu Uniform System of School Education (Samacheer Kalvi) was not meant for an unsuitable evaluation of her merit at a national level. NEET was ugly and scary for her and thousands of others.
The Centre Cannot Control Education In States
Presently, NEET is one of the biggest injustices in India's uneven education system. It has created an inappropriate filter that doesn't find real merit, but lets only those with special entitlements pass through. Getting these entitlements, such as crash-training in cracking MCQ requires access to an expensive, premium coaching that people such as Anitha in the hinterlands of India cannot afford. If states such as Tamil Nadu had been able to expand the access to education even to the remotest areas because of years of hard work, filters such as NEET mercilessly roll them back.
Education cannot be taken out of the linguistic, socio-cultural and autonomous context of Indian states.
There was a purpose why the Constitution had left subjects such as education and health - the pillars of human development - with the state government. And that's precisely why every the Indian state has its own "state board" for school education and appropriate syllabi. Education cannot be taken out of the linguistic, socio-cultural and autonomous context of Indian states. In fact, the Kothari Commission, that was convened in the 1960s to advise on education in the country, wanted education to remain with the state despite its recommendation for a nationwide standardisation.
Kerala, the jewel in India's human development story, made all its early strides in education with this autonomy, and Tamil Nadu has produced high quality doctors, surgeons, engineers, scientists and academics with its own educational system and premier institutions. But when it came to NEET, Kerala topped the list in South India with 79.77 pass percentage, while Tamil Nadu fell to the bottom with 41 per cent.
The reason was not quality or merit, but access. This is how unjust NEET is.
Politics Surrounding NEET
Had former Tamil Nadu chief minister Jayalalithaa been alive, Anitha probably wouldn't have died. Jaya had clearly understood the need for autonomy in education and the unsuitability of entrance examinations in her state. She abolished them in 2005 and had vowed to put an end to NEET if she came back to power in 2016. Although she did return to power, she was mostly sick, and had passed away at a crucial time. Jaya had even promised new legislation if things didn't work. But her legacy-holders - the splintered AIADMK that is obsequious to the BJP-ruled centre for power and safety - are hardly interested.
Even without entrance examinations, Tamil Nadu still tops the country in both quality and numbers of technical talent. Its Anna University campus, which doesn't have an entrance test, is as prestigious and coveted as the IIT in Chennai, and about 1.2 crore students study under Samacheer Kalvi.
A subject in the concurrent list makes both the Centre and the state equal partners, but given the Centre's constitutional upper hand, it never works that way. NEET is a classic example.
Joining the statewide protests against Anitha and NEET, DMK leader MK Stalin has promised to bring education back to the state list and ensure that nobody meets with Anitha's fate again in Tamil Nadu. DMK had been among the most vociferous voices for state autonomy in its early years, but has long since watered down its policy thanks to its opportunistic alliances with national parties that ruled Delhi.
Had DMK been serious, it could have blocked NEET because it was a creation of the UPA. As Jaya once said, the DMK even had a second chance when the UPA government chose to appeal against a Supreme Court verdict that abolished NEET in 2013. In fact, it was during the same time, that Kapil Sibal, the then human resources development minister had developed such fancy ideas of unified screening tests for a complexly diverse country (common entrance exam for all engineering colleges across India that receive some funding from government of India). Creating such standards to national institutions is understandable, but imposing them on state institutions that are built on a different understanding of social justice and development ethic was totally insane. In terms of character, it's similar to the imposition of Hindi, that Tamil Nadu rose against and defeated on multiple occasions.
The only way to escape this absolutist injustice is to bring education back to the state list
In fact, most of the blame for today's mess should go to the Congress because it was Indira Gandhi who shifted education, which had been constitutionally part of the state list, to the concurrent list in 1976. The brutal suzerainty of emergency ensured that there was neither consultations with the states nor, resistance from them. Evidently, the Swaran Singh Committee that recommended such a move because the government then thought education required national policies, reflected Indira Gandhi's emergency ethos of a centralised India. A subject in the concurrent list makes both the Centre and the state equal partners, but given the Centre's constitutional upper hand, it never works that way. NEET is a classic example.
The Way Forward
The only way to escape this absolutist injustice is to bring education back to the state list, a larger campaign for retaining the constitutionally guaranteed autonomy of the states in letter and spirit. It needs icons such as Jaya, who defiantly stood up for the rights of the states. In a country which has Orissa and Kerala - and BIMARU states and southern India - at the two ends of the diverse development spectrum, one size doesn't fit all. Imposing such one sizes is to disincentivise good governance and innovation by enterprising states, and to pull all of them down to sub Saharan standards.
As Jawaharlal Nehru said in his Discovery of India, "India is a geographical and economic entity, a cultural unity amidst diversity, a bundle of contradictions held together by strong but invisible threads." He even called it a "myth and an idea" (Salman Rushdie also said something similar). The constitution embodied this reality, but politics of hegemony chooses to ignore it.
Finally, the NEET-advocates must learn from a tiny Cuba, that's as small as Uttarakhand in terms of population. It doesn't have NEET or any such unreasonable screens, but trains doctors by the thousands, half of them from different parts of the world. They deploy doctors all over the world where they need them, whether it's an Ebola-hit Liberia, where nobody wanted to go, or a Quake-hit Pakistan. It runs world-class institutions in rich countries such as Qatar and poor countries such as Timor Leste.
Majority of their graduates end up serving government institutions, and hence the poor, because of the value system that they imbibe during their education. (Cuban model also calls for free medical education)
In comparison, in India, absurd centralist policies are killing its homegrown advantages, and the people such as Anitha who co-create them.
By PTI | Published: 04th September 2017 02:35 PM |
MADURAI: Taking a serious view of the Blue Whale Challenge game, the Madras High Court today directed the Central and Tamil Nadu governments to explore possibilities of banning it.
Initiating suo motu proceedings in the matter, Justices K K Sasidharan and G R Swaminathan of Madurai bench issued notice to the Union Information and Broadcasting Secretary and state Home Secretary and IT department and made several suggestions.
The bench asked them to find out the possibility of banning the game and directed that IIT-Madras Director be impleaded in the case to offer suggestions to ban such online games.
During the hearing of the matter, the state government informed the court that the student who ended his life here had shared the game with 75 others. However, all of them had been prevented from playing it, the government counsel added.
The judges suggested to the state DGP and Home Secretary that severe warning be issued to those who shared the 'dangerous' online game with others.
On September 1, the court had said it would take up the case suo motu when Krishnamurthy, an advocate, made an appeal for a direction to the Union Information and Broadcasting Ministry to ban such games.
The advocate made the plea after 19-year old Vignesh, a private college student, allegedly committed suicide on August 30 here after playing the game.
Vignesh had reportedly told his friends that he was "crazy" about the game and also told his parents that he was getting isolated due to his addiction for it.
Later in a suicide note, he had said "The game was a devastating one... once you enter it, you would not be able to come out."
The bench also said monitoring should be intensified to prevent further spread of the game through sharing.
The court stressed on the need for creating awareness among students against playing such "dangerous" online games in educational institutions.
To this, CB-CID police officials present at the court said they were keeping a close watch and taking steps to freeze the game.
Warning had been issued against those sharing and downloading the "deadly" online game, they added.
The state government also informed the court that Vignesh had shared the game through Facebook and "Share it" App with 75 others. All had been prevented from playing the game, it said.
The IT department should also give suggestions to prevent the sharing of such "dangerous" online games, the bench said and posted the matter for further hearing to September 7.
The Blue Whale Challenge is reportedly a suicide game in which the player is given certain tasks to complete over a period of 50 days and the final task leads him or her to commit suicide.
The player is also asked to share photos after finishing each challenge.
The game has claimed several lives worldwide.
Chennai, Sept 4: The Madurai bench of the Madras High Court on Monday directed Tamil Nadu police to take strict action against those who share the ...