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Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Nobody Wants to Talk About the Student Suicides in Kota - Quint


Aviral Virk

May 9, 2016, 11:55 pm

Student suicides make for bad PR. The coaching institutes of Kota would rather talk about their success stories – a welder’s son who got picked by Microsoft for a Rs 1.2 crore package, or the student who cracked the IIT (Main), despite her disability.
The marketing teams of the top coaching institutes would prefer to appropriate the success of the drop-out who became the toast of the start-up industry, or the wannabe coder who junked engineering to write a book. The fact that these “failed” students of Kota went on create success stories in spite of, and not because of the country’s coaching factory, is a fact they’d rather obfuscate.

“Actually, it [news of suicides] demotivates other students”, says the senior marketing manager of a leading coaching institute, from where the maximum number of suicides were reported last year.

Suicide note of an 18-year-old student who committed suicide last year. (Photo: The Quint)

The Ostrich Approach
With big money riding on the coaching institutes, the unwritten moratorium on student suicides is almost universal.
Once a dying industrial town, Kota got a new lease more than two decades ago when Bansal Coaching Classes started expanding. Today, there’s construction in every direction you look. Massive malls, high-rise residential complexes which will serve as hostels for the 1.5 lakh outstation students and restaurants serving Bihari litti-chokha and “U.P specialities” are commonplace. There’s even talk of reviving the defunct airport, now a ghost-town in the middle of civilisation.

Mr VK Bansal is considered the pioneer of the coaching industry in Kota. (Photo: The Quint)

To not talk about the 19 suicides in 2015 and the six suicides this year, due to the “fear of demotivating other students”, is naive and bound to have dangerous consequences.

“If suicides were to go up by just reporting, then they should’ve been a daily occurrence”, says Samkit Jain, a Kota-based journalist who’s been privy to the meetings between the district administration and representatives of the coaching institutes.

Talking About Student Suicides Helps
For one, coaching institutes which charge approximately Rs 70,000 for a year’s tuition fees did not have a student-friendly refund policy. Most coaching institutes permitted a partial refund within a month, but most students who wanted to drop out mid-year were unable to do so without letting the entire year’s fee going to waste. Financial burden was a recurring theme in a majority of the suicide notes recovered last year. This is bound to go a long way in relieving the stress off the students and their families.

Secondly, not all coaching institutes had experienced counsellors on call. The district administration had made it mandatory for the coaching centres to have senior counsellors available for students in distress.

Dr ML Aggarwal has been helping train counsellors who are employed at the helpline centre in Kota. (Photo: The Quint)

Thirdly, a helpline number (0744-2333666) which had been suspended due to paucity of funds has been restarted by the Hope Society with the help of the district administration and a group of coaching institutes. Dr ML Aggarwal who helped set it up, says they’re still not able to advertise the helpline number effectively, but are still able to help 2-4 seriously distressed callers each day.