Wednesday, October 21, 2015
Why Are So Many IIT Madras Students Trying To Kill Themselves? - India Times
October 19, 2015
An Indian Institute of Technology-Madras (IIT-M) student was found hanging from the ceiling fan of his hostel room this morning.
If this is confirmed as suicide, the pre-final-year student dual-degree Electrical Engineering will mark what has become a dangerous trend at the IIT.
It would be the second on-campus suicide by a student of the prestigious institution in the last 30 days. Just last month (22 September), N Narendra Kumar Reddy, a 23-year-old IITian hung himself from his ceiling fan after returning from his village. The M.Tech student was being sponsored by a private construction firm.
The pressure may have gotten to him
In 2014, IITs saw an estimated 14 student suicides, probably the highest ever across these elite colleges. In May 2015, Jitesh Sharma, a third-year student of chemical engineering at IIT Bombay, allegedly committed suicide, and his note mentioned poor performance in his exams as well as his worry about placements. The inability to cope - often spiraling into depression - has haunted several students. "The world creates artificial expectations. There's peer pressure, family pressure, societal pressure.
"Unfortunately, for some students, their ambition is centred around pay packages. To their mind, their success will be judged only around their pay packages and placements," says Indranil Manna, director, IIT Kanpur.
Agrees Mohak Mehta, placement manager at IIT Bombay: "There are students blindly taking up computer science and engineering even if they aren't inclined towards it just because that's where the fattest pay cheques are. Parents call up the placement cell to find out the schools or branches getting the top salaries, and that's the one they pressurise their children to join."
Students slip into depression easily
At a leading IIT, a top 50 AIR holder in JEE took up computer science but could not cope with the pressure. He went into depression. "In this competitive environment, when someone starts slipping, stress just keeps building up from there," says a director at a top IIT, who does not wish to be named.
You could have been a topper all your life, but here you may be struggling to get by
"There are students coming into the system thinking that once they've made it to an IIT, things are easy from then on," says Parth Vaswani of IIT Kanpur. "They don't realise it's just the first hurdle. You could have been a topper all your life, but here you may be struggling to get by." Pressure builds up in various ways. There are students who see their batchmates bag coveted internships in the second and third years and suffer from comparison. There are those who have been faring poorly academically. Then there are students from humble backgrounds whose families have sold their land or put in all their savings for what they believe is the ticket to a better life. Some of these students don't even have the time to bond or make friends. "Stress and depression is more prevalent among people who are shy and quiet. There are counsellors on campus but they won't reach out for help," says IIT Bombay's Mohak Mehta.
IITs too have their own systems in place. There are counsellors on board, buddy systems, faculty advisors at hand to look out for students at risk. "We try to make sure there are multiple ways of reaching out to students," says Bhaskar Ramamurthi, director, IIT Madras. "It's not always foolproof but we try and ensure we do everything we can."
Yet, IIT Madras sticks out when looking at news coverage of suicide. Between 2019-2013, it saw 8 suicides
IIT-M director Bhaskar Ramamurthi said they had implemented recommendations of M Anandakrishnan Report on increasing suicides in centrally-funded institutions. "Professional counsellors are available 24 hours a day on the campus and the identity of those seeking help is protected. We also have a mentoring system run by senior students in which a volunteer helps at least seven students individually," he said.
Many students and professors find these measures quite ineffective.
"Instead of finding the root cause and building a collective support system of students and teachers, the measures implemented here are to silence or control students. Seniors working as mentors for MITR mostly spy on students who smoke or are in relationships," said a fourth year dual degree science student.
"Sir, since I joined in 2009, every year there has been a suicide. As a student I have the right to know about IIT-M's actions to prevent such unfortunate incidents. And even after the introduction of MITR (a guidance and counselling system), the story is same," A student wrote in a concerned mail after institute dean (students) L S Ganesh posted a condolence message following the suicide of a first year student.
After a condolence statement, the college has not announced a formal plan to change what it might be doing wrong - and what might be killings its students.
(Inputs from TNN | Economic Times)