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Wednesday, November 22, 2017

India’s Universities Are Falling Terribly Short on Addressing Caste Discrimination - The Wire


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.

Physical segregation
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.


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.”

Support programmes 
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.


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.
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.”




Salvinder Singh Sohata
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 woul...





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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

IIT’s breaking point - Hindu Businessline



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.

Cold silence
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

Dreams, aspirations and mental torture - Sentinel Assam

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

NCPCR prepares guidelines for hostels after suicides at IIT coaching centres - New Indian Express


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.

How did it all start
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.
Future plans
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.


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Wednesday, November 1, 2017

From thoughts of suicide to setting course for IIT, miracle turnaround in this brilliant girl’s life will restore your faith on humanity - Financial Express


Since her family was suffering from a financial crunch, 17-year-old Kajal Jha had to quit her studies after class 12th but then, something miraculous happened that will restore your faith in humanity

By: FE Online | New Delhi | Published: October 31, 2017 4:27 PM
You must have heard the famous phrase by novelist Paulo Coelho, which says, “And, when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.” Something of this sort happened with Ghaziabad’s Indirapuram resident Kajal. Since her family was suffering from a financial crunch, 17-year-old Kajal Jha had to quit her studies after class 12th but then, something miraculous happened that will restore your faith in humanity. The people of Indirapuram came together to help Kajal pursue her dreams. Kajal is now preparing for the entracnce exam of country’s most respectable technical institution, IIT. The residents of Indirapuram collected Rs 20,000 by chipping in and got Kajal enrolled in a coaching centre, so, that she could get proper guidance on how to prepare for the exams, Navbharat Times reports. Not just this, the Indirapuram residents are bearing the cost of her studies too. The story doesn’t end here. The generous people of Indirapuram have also managed to get a job for her father, who now works as a supervisor to supplement the family’s income.
Kajal passed class 12th in science stream scoring 95 percent marks but witnessing her family’s financial condition, she had to discontinue her studies. As per the Navbharat Times report, at one point of time, the family members got so depressed and helpless that they were planning to commit suicide. However, their neighbours counselled them and also came forward to help them financially. Today, around 40 people of Ghaziabad’s Indirapuram are helping the family by raising funds through social media sites.


The residents of Indirapuram, by helping out the aggrieved family, have shown that in a world, where people are so immersed in their own life and their own problems, there are some who care for others as well.