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Wednesday, September 23, 2015

(I)IT's Not Right to Give Up Fight - Indian Express

By Siddharth Prabhakar
Published: 23rd September 2015 03:45 AM

CHENNAI: The suicide of yet another post-graduate student at the prestigious Indian Institute of Madras (IIT-M) has once again put the focus on the high pressure conditions in elite institutions.

For an engineering-crazy society and parents, getting an admission in the IITs is seen as the pinnacle of achievement for any student. Considering the fat pay offered by companies during placement drives, many students from humble upbringing or rural backgrounds enter IITs with sky-high ambitions, but with equal vulnerability, said an IIT-M professor. 

“They fail to cope with the tough and demanding courses,” he said, speaking from his experience as a hostel warden. The situation is worse for post-graduate students, who have graduated from colleges or universities ‘lesser’ than IITs, as there is an exponential rise in the output demanded by the professors and the course structure, said a PhD student.

Another former M Tech student of the institute alleged that there were cases where professors would extend the project or grade it lower, thus damaging the placement prospects of students. The professor who has also been a hostel warden, said students at the institute were aloof and do not have a support system of friends or family to fall back upon in case of a failure in exams or placement tests.

Agreeing with this view, the research student said IITs are vastly different compared to arts colleges or even other engineering colleges where a huge friends group would ensure sharing of grief. “Inside IITs, students who are already under the pressure of a tough syllabus have to deal with failure on their own. This culminates into suicide,” he reasoned.

The aloofness is for a reason, the M Tech student said. “Students condition themselves to be self-centred and driven, with a focus only on professional success to be preferred as best candidates for the campus placements. They don’t have a social life where they relax,” he said.

The professor said every hostel has at least 2-3 members who would be depressed. “It is the warden’s duty to be vigilant and recognise such persons and take him to a counsellor. IIT-M has Mitr — a unit which specifically deals with this. But a counsellor can only be successful if they get complete access to the patient’s thoughts,” he said.

Reasons for suicide have often been trivial. The professor recalled a case where a student killed himself as friends he considered educationally inferior scored higher marks in the GRE examination. “In some cases there are also family issues,” he said.