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Sunday, September 7, 2014

254 - IIT-B students complain of stress, inadequate support - DNA

Saturday, 6 September 2014 - 7:05am IST | Agency: DNA

The death of 22-year-old Aniket Ambhore at the Indian Institute of Technology – Bombay is not the first such case. There have been at least two other incidents in the past 19 months that have sparked concerns.

What were the earlier incidents?
In February last year, Ankur Abhishek, a fourth year dual-degree electrical engineering student, drowned in Vihar lake. In January this year, M Siva Theja, a PhD student hailing from Hyderabad went missing. His body was found, the head covered with plastic, at a lodge in Visakhapatnam.

students believe that all these cases are suicides and they insist that the institute is trying to brush them under the carpet.

On Friday, activities on the campus appeared to be normal, except that the Teachers' Day programme was cancelled.

Is there too much academic pressure?
The students suggest that academic pressure together with inadequate support mechanism is leading to mental pressure that they are not able to deal with.

"Academic vigour is so much that sometimes even the most brilliant brains feel lost, especially those who haven't got the course of their choice. We're supposed to clear six subjects every semester. If you have a backlog, the pressure goes out of the roof," said a final year B-Tech student.

Urjit Yajnik, dean of students affairs, says there's academic stress in schools too, but there are counsellors to help students at IIT-B. Students argue this is not sufficient.

"This cannot be addressed by any counsellor. Merely sending students for the academic rehabilitation programme is not enough. What about the threat of losing a year," asked a general secretary of a hostel.

Do teachers fail students deliberately?
Students also allege that some teachers fail students deliberately over petty issues. "I was failed as I submitted my project 10 minutes late. I had to appear for the course all over again in the next semester. I am not allowed to question the autonomy of the teacher," rued a final year student of metallurgical engineering.

Teachers are said to be so strict that they mark students absent even if they are just 10 minutes late to class, despite the fact that this may be due to an earlier lecture being delayed.
Prof Yajnik denies the charges. "You are taking things to another dimension. I wouldn't like to comment on that." he said.

Why no discussion with the students?
"I've been studying here for the past five years and have seen so many cases of deaths. But there has never been any official word from the institute. Whatever we got to know was through the media. It's as if the authorities don't care when a student dies," said another M-Tech student.

Why the silence over Aniket's death?
On Friday afternoon the IIT-B public relations officer (PRO) sent out an e-mail to the media stating that the Teachers' Day event had been cancelled "due to some internal reasons".

The death of the fourth year student on Thursday was not even acknowledged by the administration, perhaps a confirmation of the indifference of the Country's premier technical institute to the problems of students. "This wasn't good news and so mentioning it was not required," the PRO said.