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Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Biswa Kalyan Rath's Mood Indigo set was all about suicide, depression and more

Because if anybody can make you laugh at tragedy, it's him

ARPITA KALA @akemi_is_here | 25 DECEMBER 2017, 7:51 PM

         Biswa says what should have been said already 

We bet the lines outside ATMs during demonetisation couldn't have been longer than the queues outside the auditorium where comedian Biswa Kalyan Rath performed today.

Rath spoke about students' suicide and depression on the last day of the Mood Indigo 2017 fest at the IIT Bombay campus. And surprisingly, it was funny. 

Using his trademark dark humour, he said, "There is a huge problem in educational institutions that people are not addressing — students' suicide. It hurts me when kids kill themselves because they are my major fanbase. Toh dhandha bandh hota hai. So, aisa mat karo."

Despite the tough love, the comedian managed to give out some real advice to students who are facing suicidal thoughts. He says, "Agar tumko problem hai, speak to a friend... agar tumhara friend sarcastic hai toh baat mat karo. Because then you will say, 'I am feeling bad' and he will say, 'Toh jaa mar jaa.'" 

The comedian did take a dig at the questionable hygiene of the engineering students too. "Tumhare paas lake hai, jao nahao. Four students came to receive me and not one of them had taken a bath. You guys haven't bathed for four days. One of them had his beard longer than the hair on his head. But I feel comfortable in engineering spaces," he says. He advised students to give taking bath a chance so that they can appreciate the beauty of life and not get suicidal. "Ek baar naha ke, dho ke ghar se niklo, life achha lagega," he says. 

Monday, December 18, 2017

The Kota conundrum - Tribune India

Posted at: Dec 17, 2017, 2:12 AM; 

The rising number of student suicides in Kota, the coaching capital of India, and various IITs and other elite institutions is not a story of failure of these youngsters, but of our system

According to the latest National Health Profile published by the government, one in three suicides in India is committed by those in the age group of 15 to 29 years

Aditi Tandon

It has been two years since Sumer Ram, a promising young student of medical stream and an MBBS hopeful, ended his life at a thriving coaching institute in Kota, the coaching capital of India.

Nineteen-year-old Sumer  had missed the selection for MBBS through the All-India Pre-Medical Test (AIPMT) by 20 marks in 2015. “My son wanted to improve his score to be able to get an MBBS entry in the 2016 edition of AIPMT. He had been at Kota for coaching for seven months, preparing for the next entrance exam. In December 2015 we got the news that he had committed suicide. It came like a bolt from the blue because everything was going fine. The institute people later told us that he had not attended classes for a few days. When we asked why they didn’t intimate us about our son’s absence, they said they couldn’t possibly track all students in the class all the time,” says a teary-eyed Hazri Ram, the deceased’s father, a resident of Nagaur district in Rajasthan. 

Hazri Ram is not alone in this anguish. Among the first recorded suicides was that of 19-year-old Nidhi Kumari from Jharkhand. Her father Rajendra Kumar is still grappling with the tragedy. She was studying in Kota for her MBBS entrance.

The latest suicide in this Rajasthan city happened as recently as December 7 this year and involved a young boy. Between 2013 and now, more than 56 students have ended their lives in Kota, unable to cope with the high-pressure preparation schedules for Joint Entrance Exam  (JEE) Advanced for entry to IITs and NITs and National Eligibility cum Entrance Test for entry to top medical colleges.

The final push
Why are student suicides continuing unabated? Reasons are multiple. “Mainly because of the way the coaching centres and their schedules are structured. Annual expense to get a student coached in any top Kota institute is Rs 2.5 lakh. It’s a lot of money for most families. Returns are never guaranteed. But parents, in the hope of securing the careers of their children, take loans, sell properties and do anything they can to pay up. The pressure of this cost recovery is squarely on the student who is expected to study well and crack the test. A student’s individual potential for any discipline is secondary,” says Arvind Gupta, a Kota local, who has been tracking city-based suicides.

Each coaching class usually has 200 to 250 students with little personal attention being paid to anyone. Sundays are also not free as internal tests are scheduled on Sundays. The marks obtained in these tests form the basis to rank students within the institute. 

“A system of discriminatory teaching is followed in almost all top coaching centres in Kota, which focus on potential high performers who can bag top positions in JEE and NEET. The pressure on slow coping and low performing students is obvious,” says a parent of a student who killed himself. 

Alarmed by these deaths, the Rajasthan administration recently issued guidelines to Kota coaching centres asking them to ensure not more than 60 students in a class, mandating the centres to return the fees in case a student wanted to opt out and ordering them to institutionalise a system of sending SMS alerts to parents in case a student absented from a class for more than few days and without medical grounds. The present practice in Kota is to take yearly fee at the time of admission with no pledge to return the dues in case a student wants to exit.

Violatory practices
But all this is still being practiced in violation of the government guidelines as suicides continue and as does the business of these centres. The city has over 50 centres. Around 1.70 lakh students annually descend on Kota in the hope of making their dream careers. The commercial value of Kota’s flourishing coaching business is estimated at Rs 4,000 crore annually.

Why do students continue to queue up at Kota despite its reputation of a suicide capital? Reasons are clear. 

The mad zeal to crack the competitive engineering and medical entrance exams outweighs all considerations both for parents and students who, sometimes, have little option. 

When Varun Kumar, a Ludhiana boy, committed suicide at Allen coaching centre, Kota, on December 3, 2015, his father Balvir Ram was shocked. All Varun wanted was an edge to get enough marks to enter a government medical college which he had missed a year earlier.

“Coaching centres don’t exist in a vacuum. The ground has been laid by our faulty education system where there is a premium on cracking competitive exams while school education is ignored,” says Rajeev Kumar, a former IIT professor from Kharagpur. 

These Kota students often take admissions in the city’s dummy schools to complete their Class XII as they attend coaching classes on the side. Local administration is now cracking down on these dummy institutions.

A matter of aptitude
There have also been demands to mandate aptitude tests for students seeking admission to Kota centres so that they know about their potential at the beginning. This recommendation is part of the Kota administration’s guidelines to coaching centres but has not been followed strictly. These centres continue to enrol all students whether or not they have the skill and the aptitude to bear the gruelling preparation schedules. Naturally, weaker students fall off the academic track, many ending their lives.

The cycle of suicides doesn’t end here. It persists through the student life in IITs and NITs and various other elite institutions.

Scores of students have committed suicide after entering IITs because while coaching prepared them to crack the entrance, it didn’t prepare them to stand up to IITs’ real challenge of research and innovation. 

Mahtab Ahmed, an IIT Kanpur student, who killed himself some years ago, had scribbled on his hostel wall, “I hate IIT.”

An M. Tech student at IIT Madras, Nithin Reddy, had ended his life after being asked to repeat a course in the final year. Nithin had already landed a job and the repetition  would have meant foregoing the job.

The rat race for elite colleges

Even this year, many suicides have been reported from the elite central technical institutes, including that of IIT Kharagpur’s aerospace engineering student Nidhin M in April. He hanged himself from a ceiling fan. “Let me sleep,” was all he wrote before he killed himself.

Former IIT Kanpur Director Sanjay Dhande, who headed 
a taskforce to recommend measures to prevent suicides on campuses, feels disproportionate attention and focus on IITs and NITs as India’s top engineering institutions has created the pressure on students to get into these colleges.

The Dhande panel had suggested end of single-room occupancy in IITs and to share rooms to encourage bonding. Another suggestion was to reduce the internet speed on campuses so as to wean students off gadgets and allow them time to concentrate on lessons.

Eventually, a system of MiTR (a guidance and counselling unit) was introduced in IITs to help students cope with the stress of institutional rigours. 

The hidden signs
But even counselling services tend to miss signs of stress among students. The counselling wing of IIT Bombay  had failed to recognise a student Srikant Malapulla as a depressive. A regular at the counselling  centre, he had committed suicide.

“There is no single cause or solution for mental health issues that drive people to suicide. The high levels of competition are a major reason of stress which is why on this World Mental Health Day, the WHO had asked all employers to put the mental health of workers on their agenda. This applies to educational institutions also. Frequent demands of high performance, regular grading and the stress of campus placements in technical institutions takes a toll on students. It’s time to address the issue holistically right from reviving the worth of school education to stressing conceptual knowledge rather than test-cracking abilities which coaching centres hone,” says Dr Rajesh Sagar, Professor of Psychiatry at AIIMS, New Delhi.

Mental health experts, meanwhile, add that suicides are an emerging epidemic in India. 

Recent data reveals over 1.30 lakh suicides a year, with young being the most affected and males being more vulnerable than women.

“One in three suicides in India is committed by those between 15 and 29 years and two in three between 15 and 44 years. The younger population is more at risk,” says the latest National Health Profile published by the Government. 

It does not analyse the causes behind the trend but presents enough proof for policy makers to consider mental health implications of economic growth, competitive markets, shrinking jobs and disintegrating inter-personal and social ties.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Another coaching student commits suicide in Kota - Hindustan Times

A 17-year-old coaching student has committed suicide by hanging from a ceiling fan at his hostel in Kota’s Jawahar Nagar area, police said on Wednesday.
JAIPUR Updated: Dec 13, 2017 17:01 Ist

HT Correspondent 
Hindustan Times

This is the seventh student suicide this year in Kota and second in this month.(HT File)
A 17-year-old coaching student has committed suicide by hanging from a ceiling fan at his hostel in Kota’s Jawahar Nagar area, police said on Wednesday.
The incident came to notice on Tuesday night when Amandeep Singh, who hails from Raigarh district in Maharashtra, did not pick call from his mother, who alerted his hostel mates.
When Singh’s hostel mates reached his room, they found him hanging, police said.
Why Singh’s took his life is yet to be ascertained but a piece of paper inscribed with the word “sorry” was recovered from the spot, said Neeraj Kumar, circle inspector of Jawahar Nagar Police Station.
The student’s body was handed over his parents, who arrived here on Wednesday, after autopsy, he said.

Singh, a class 12 student, was taking coaching for IIT-JEE from a coaching institute in Kota. He had arrived in the city early this year.
This is the seventh student suicide this year in Kota and second in this month.
Abdul Azeez, 21, killed himself on December 6 blaming family problem for his extreme step. Last year, 16 students committed suicide in Kota.
Around 1.50 lakh students from across the country arrive in Kota, is known for its coaching centres, every year to prepare for highly competitive admission tests to enter India’s premier engineering or medical colleges.

IIT aspirant from UP commits suicide in Kota - India Today

December 13, 2017 | UPDATED 18:00 IST

Kota (Rajasthan), Dec 13(PTI) A Class 12 boy, undertaking coaching for the IIT entrance examination, allegedly committed suicide by hanging himself from a ceiling fan in his hostel room here, police said today.

Eighteen-year-old Amandeep Singh, a resident of Haldur area in Bijnor district of Uttar Pradesh, committed suicide last night in Mahaveernagar I area under Jawaharnagar police station, assistant sub-inspector (ASI) of police Avadesh Singh said.
Amandeep Singh had sought admission in a leading coaching institute about eight to nine months ago for preparing for the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) entrance examination, the ASI said.
The police were yet to ascertain the exact reason behind the boy committing suicide, the police officer said, adding that the body has been sent to the Maharao Bheem Singh (MBS) Hospital for post-mortem.
This is the seventh suicide by an engineering aspirant in the city, popular for its coaching institutes, this year.
Twenty-year-old Abdullaha Azij of Lucknow allegedly committed suicide last week.
On November 20, a 19-year-old girl, identified as Manisha Singh of Patna in Bihar, allegedly committed suicide by hanging herself from a ceiling fan in her hostel room.
The number of suicides by students in the city has, however, gone down by around 70 per cent as compared to last year, police said. PTI CORR SMN

This is unedited, unformatted feed from the Press Trust of India wire.