Kota’s “competitive atmosphere” attracts people from all parts of the country. The student deaths, however, has gained it some notoriety too.
For those who have been living in Kota for more than a year, a suicide and the subsequent media report means a frantic call from home. And most of the parents, according to students, have a standard way of addressing the concern – “he or she need not have committed suicide...you must not take any stress”.
“The concern is always there. My father tells me not to worry if I am unable to crack the exam,” says Vandana Bharti, a native of Saharsa, Bihar, a Class 12 student at a school in Kota. She is also preparing for the NEET.
Prabhat Kumar has reached Kota from Muzaffarpur in Bihar. He says his son wanted to come to Kota immediately after Class 10 examinations to prepare for IIT-JEE. “But I told him to wait for two years. One reason was the reports of depression and suicides that emanate from here,” says Kumar, an advocate at Muzaffarpur civil court.
Kumar adds that he would have been fine with his son pursuing a graduation degree and that his son was free to come back home anytime he felt he was unable to handle the pressure.
Antaryami Kaushik, a resident of Sri Ganganagar is in Kota to get his 16-year-old son admitted to a coaching institute. Kaushik says his wife will stay with their son as he prepares for IIT-JEE. “The son of a close friend is also staying here with my son. My wife and my friend’s wife will alternately come and stay here with the children,” says Kaushik, a teacher in a government college.
Celebrations at a coaching institute after one of its student was declared the topper of JEE MAINS 2017. (AH Zaidi/HT Photo)
Kaushik adds that the main reason he wants his wife to stay with the children is the disquiet caused by the reports of suicides.
Life moves on
While the fears do encroach upon the hearts and minds of parents, it has not deterred them from sending their children to Kota. Incidentally, none of the students HT talked to said that they were forced into the competition by their parents.
Kota has six to eight major coaching institutes, apart from some 35 minor ones, according to district administration.
“The coaching industry in Kota has grown consistently in the past decade, both in terms of enrolment as well as the number of coaching institutes. Many a times, a group of teachers defect from a major institute and establish their own setup, so the number keeps growing,” says Rajeev Jain, professor of management studies at University of Kota.
Allen Career Institute, the biggest player in the coaching industry, has 79,000 enrolled students. The number was 60,000 three years ago.
Another major institute, Resonance has some 25,000 students at its Kota centres. The institute too has registered a growth of few thousand in the past three years, an official from the institute said.
As the evening approaches and the temperatures dip, more uniformed students appear on the streets. Some hang around food joints, some go about talking on their cellphones -- one goes around fidgeting with a Rubik’s cube – while a giant TV screen plays promotional videos with bytes of former toppers vouching for the coaching institutes.
The coaching industry of India’s coaching capital marches on with its usual ruthlessness