Wednesday, May 22, 2013
Jatin Anand and Mallica Joshi, Hindustan Times New Delhi, May 06, 2013
First Published: 00:37 IST(6/5/2013) | Last Updated: 00:41 IST(6/5/2013)
Depressed over his inability to converse with a senior whom he was seemingly infatuated with, a final semester student at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Delhi, hung himself from a ceiling fan in his hostel room this past Thursday.
A 24-year-old, whose name is being withheld by HT on grounds of privacy, was from Punjab and was enrolled in the much sought-after computer science course at the institute and had recently landed a job with an annual package of Rs. 18 lakh at global IT giant Microsoft.
He left behind a suicide note, written in Punjabi, which stated that he did not wish to marry or even befriend the woman in question and only wanted to talk to her. He declared his resolve to end his life basing it on his failure to do so.
“The incident was reported to us by IIT authorities on the same day and investigations revealed that the incident was triggered by the victim’s depressed psychological state,” said a police officer.
The student lived alone and did not have a roommate.
What’s behind the suicides at IIT Kanpur?
- IIT-K has seen a student suicide every year in the last five years
- The latest incident was on November 17 when a girl student hanged herself to death
- Parents blame overstretched curriculum and grading system
- Faculty faults parents for putting pressure on children
- Late nights playing video games or surfing the net often leads to poor health, impacting academic performance
In our survey of professional colleges this year, the Indian Institute of Technology at Kanpur stood a proud second among the top ten government engineering institutes. IIT-K is ahead again, but this time for a rather dubious distinction: eight of its students have committed suicide in the last five years.
Just when the authorities were heaving a sigh of relief that 2010 had gone by without incident, 23-year-old Madhuri Sale, a final-year civil engineering student, hanged herself from the ceiling fan of her hostel room on November 17. It ended the first long spell the campus has had since the last suicide on Jan 3, 2009, in a spate that began in Nov 2005.
What explains it? Distraught parents tend to blame it all on the institute’s overstretched curriculum and complex grading system which starts telling on students. As S.L. Kureel, whose son Prashant Kumar, a 20-year-old second-year student, hanged himself from the ceiling fan in his hostel room on Apr 18, 2008, does. “The institute needs to review its age-old grading system,” he says, “the fear of losing out on a year or failing in a paper compels them to take the extreme step.”
Posted in Lucknow as regional director of National Small Savings, Kureel is unwilling to pardon the IIT authorities for what he terms as institutional “callousness”. What continues to haunt him is the alleged refusal of institute director Sanjay Dhande to grant him an audience. “The director refused to spare me any time. He is also not open to any suggestions from parents who are the worst sufferers in the event of a suicide of their son or daughter,” says Kureel, who is still at a loss to understand why his bright and fun-loving son would end his life. “All the director did was to send me a routine letter of condolence when I was about to cremate my only son,” he recalls. Kureel’s plea to the Union HRD minister as well as the prime minister for a CBI probe also fell on deaf ears.
At A Loss: The grieving brother of Madhuri Sale, who ended her life on November 17. (Photograph by R. Shukla)
In Madhuri Sale’s case, however, faculty members and administration rule out academic pressure. “Madhuri was a good student and had scored a grade of 10 in her last exam,” says Prof Sanjay Mittal, dean of faculty affairs. “So there was no question of her not clearing the finals.” Madhuri’s mother had another explanation: “My child was discriminated against because of parochial considerations.” Madhuri’s family is from the Nalgonda district of Andhra Pradesh. Few, however, are willing to buy this charge as IIT-K is highly heterogeneous, drawing its 4,920 students and 360-odd faculty members from all parts of the country.
Nor does the institute lack in desired infrastructure for students who might need assistance—in academics or healthwise. “Any student falling short in his or her academic grades is automatically included in a separate group that receives special tutorial classes,” asserts Prof Partha Chakravarty, dean of student affairs. “Besides, of course, teachers are available 24x7 to all students.” In addition to the already well-laid-out counselling service, director Dhande has now expanded the base with three counsellors and two psychiatrists. There are also classes in yoga and art of living. Besides, the sports facilities in every hostel are excellent.
Students too concede that the institute has a perfect support system. “I fail to see any reason for a student to commit suicide on account of the curriculum or academic system,” says a first-year student from Orissa. “One may have personal issues, but that can happen anywhere.” PhD student Chandrashekhar Sharma too expresses satisfaction with IIT-K’s support structure, but “one also has to come forward to avail of the facilities,” he says. Significantly, none of those who ended their lives in the past five years had ever visited the counselling centre. “That’s why we have now decided to include every student as part of a group which is supervised by a faculty member, who is expected to keep a tab on their overall behaviour. No sooner than any imbalance or disorder is detected, it will be brought to the notice of the counselling team, which will then move in to assist the student,” says senior counsellor Sharmistha Chakravarty. The counsellors also want parents to play a positive role in reducing stress levels of students.
For many believe overbearing parents add to the stress. Students admit that even after they get into IIT, parents keep up the pressure. “My mother calls me up at least thrice a week to know whether I am studying properly or not,” notes a second-year student. “My father expects me to maintain the high marks I used to get in school, without realising that the level of competition here is far higher,” complains a third-year student.
Which is why Dhande, who has been heading the institute for nine long years, firmly believes that “self-regulation” by students is a must. “Unlimited surfing on the internet and late-night indulgence in video games has to be curbed by students themselves. They are all mature young men and women; we would not like to impose anything on them. But they ought to understand that late nights take a toll on their health, thereby affecting their academic performance.”
On their part, IIT authorities are all set to come out with some concrete solutions. “A number of reforms have been mooted, but any final decision will be taken at a meeting of our senate,” Dhande discloses. “Our focus is on studying three levels of relationships—that between students and students, between students and teachers and between students and their families.” Once these concerns are addressed, our brightest students will no doubt also be the emotionally strongest ones.
Subhro Niyogi, TNN May 1, 2013, 05.11AM IST
KOLKATA: The Indian Institute of Technology-Kharagpur has firmed up plans to set up a stress bust centre to curb suicides and help students cope with pressures of a competitive environment. To be built on an island in a lake within the campus, the Vivekananda Centre for Personality Development is inspired by the Lotus Temple in Delhi where people from all faiths congregate to pray and meditate.
Speaking to TOI on the sidelines of a conference on workplace stress management organized by Confederation of Indian Industry, IIT-Kharagpur dean of alumni affairs and international relations Amit Patra said the centre would deal with the increasing level of stress among students and faculty.
"Most students who come to IIT are used to being in the top 5% in class all life. But at IIT, everyone cannot be a topper. Typically, 5% are top performers while the bottom 5% pass after the second attempt. The realization that one is no longer in the top 50% is difficult to digest and can lead to erratic behaviour and frustration, sometimes driving the desperate to suicide," explained Patra.
While IIT-Kanpur has the worst suicide record among IITs, IIT-Kharagpur has been recording a fatality each year for the past few years. These are only the number of suicides that succeed; the failed attempts that are many times higher never get recorded. The Vivekananda Centre aims to address the needs of these students as well as others seeking a break from an intensely stressful environment.
"Four years ago, when the IIT management realized that suicide was an issue needed to be dealt with, a counselling unit was set up. But students don't like to go there as they feel they will get stigmatized. Last year, the idea of a meditation-cum-introspection centre came up. The Vivekananda Centre for Personality Development will comprise mediation hall and gallery, where spiritual lectures will be delivered, self study rooms and library. The lake island has been chosen for its serene setting.
An alumni of IIT-Kharagpur has submitted the building plan. The building will be a green one, with natural light and cooling solutions," the professor of electrical engineering said.
Sources said the architecture will be a natural form and remain true to the 'golden ratio' that fascinated mankind for ages. Many of the proportions of the Parthenon, Great Mosque of Kairouan and even the Taj Mahal exhibit the golden ratio.
Construction on the Rs 10 crore project is likely to start later this year and be completed by 2015. While the centre will primarily draw students and teachers of IIT, Patra expects it to become a centre of attraction and tourist interest in the years ahead. Pradip Kumar Ray, professor at the department of industrial engineering & management at IIT, said the current economic situation with a shrinking job market was further increasing stress.
"Like Tale of Two Cities in which Charles Dickens wrote: 'It was the best of times, it was the worst of times', externally the situation seems better with improved technology and physical work environment but internally, everyone is mentally stressed. There is also a conflict between eastern values on which family culture is based and Western values that determine the way offices function. Our homes are society oriented, breed inefficiency and are long-lasting. Offices on the other hand are individualistic, drive efficiency but are not sustainable as they lead to a lot of stress on individual," he added.
IIT student attempts suicide
Bhubaneswar, April 21: A first-year electrical engineering student of the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Bhubaneswar, attempted suicide by consuming poison at his hostel in Keshura today.
The youth was identified as C. Yogith Krishna, 22, who hailed from Chennai. His friends and hostel superintendent rushed him to a private hospital in the city.
IIT, Bhubaneswar, registrar B.K. Roy said Krishna consumed an insect repellent. “He has been admitted to a private hospital, where his condition has been declared as stable. We suspect domestic compulsion or poor academic record may be the reason behind his taking the extreme step,” said Roy.
Sources in the IIT said he had fared poorly in a mathematics examination this year. “We have informed his parents and his father is coming tomorrow. We will talk to him to know the exact reason behind his attempt to end his life,” said an IIT official.
Police said they had no knowledge of the incident.
The hostel of the IIT, Bhubaneswar, and the private hospital where Krishna is being treated are both located within the limits of Saheed Nagar police station.
“We have no report of any such incident,” said assistant commissioner of police Bishnu Mishra.
By Express News Service - BHUBANESWAR
22nd April 2013 08:22 AM
A first year student of Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Bhubaneswar attempted to end his life by consuming liquid mosquito repellent. He has been hospitalised.
Jogesh Krishna, an Electrical student, was apparently unhappy with his semester results announced by the Institute recently.
He consumed the liquid mosquito repellent but was spotted by his fellow students who reported the matter to the IIT authorities.
The IIT officials rushed Krishna to Ayush Hospital. The doctors of the hospital said he has been kept under observation.
His family in Chennai has been informed.