I have a Solution that will reduce pressure on IIT aspirants but do not know how to get this across to HRD Minister of India. Suggestions are welcome. - Ram Krishnaswamy

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Tuesday, October 31, 2017

The great Indian IIT dream - The Hindu

OCTOBER 28, 2017 16:22 IST

A gritty new web series, Laakhon Mein Ek, gets up close and critical of our endless obsession with producing Asoks

Genius Infinity is a prison. It will consume you; it will chew you up and spit you out with not a sideward glance. Masquerading as a coaching institute for children whose parents want them to get into IIT, this physical space itself is the protagonist of Laakhon Mein Ek, the new web series created by gifted stand-up comedian Biswa Kalyan Rath, of pomegranate-and-banana fame.

Rath has set aside his comic tendencies to create a world of misery and despair, tracking the story of Aakash Gupta, aimless teenaged wastoid, whose caricaturish middle class parents — replete with doting, slightly clueless ‘Indian mother’ and unyielding, emotionally stunted father projecting his own ambitions on to his son — thrust him into a world he’s really not equipped to handle.

He’s sent off, from Raipur to Visakhapatnam, to Genius Infinity, for ‘IIT coaching’. We witness Aakash’s steady descent: carefree and feckless at first, a shell of a human by the end of it. The spectre of suicide looms large, with each passing frame offering a more explicit foretelling.

Much more than cliché
One of India’s worst-kept secrets is that millions of young women and men are forced to study engineering only because of the illusion of financial stability it offers. Aptitude notwithstanding, it’s presented as an idyllic state by overbearing parents, to the point where ‘IIT’ becomes an intimidating monster, a white whale perhaps, that slowly eats away at minds not yet fully developed.

The trope has been mined for material by both comics and writers, mostly for slapstick ridicule. I waded into Laakhon Mein Ek expecting much the same from Rath; a more self-aware Five Point Someone or Three Idiots, if you will, with tales of bonding, ragging, bullying, cramming — a garden variety, male coming-of-age tale.
He inverts the formula quite comprehensively though, crafting a dense, fascinating, heartbreaking portrayal of what life is like for these children, foregoing easy laughs in service of complexity. Just to get the story out of the way, Aakash joins the institute and finds himself slotted in ‘section D’, home to all the losers who have no hope in hell of ever making it. He befriends roommates Chudail, the typical ‘bad influence’ and someone who’s far too young to be this jaded, and Bakri, a stone-faced character played mostly for laughs at first before his character is shaded with greater dimensions as the show goes on.
Aakash is hopelessly out of his depth — almost like that nightmare everyone has of reaching the exam hall having studied for the wrong subject — and struggles to cope.
Ritvik Sahore, the actor who plays Aakash, uses his perpetual rabbit-in-the-headlights expression to betray a sense of vulnerability even when he’s at his worst (bullying his nemesis, Chandrakant). Things get progressively worse for him, and we get to experience his emotional corrosion and mental deterioration in slow motion HD.
However, one major issue with the show that must be pointed out: there are no women. Like zero. Nada. Zilch. Shunya. Sufuri. Nula. Meithen. Ziffer. Okay, that’s an exaggeration, I counted two: one is Aakash’s hapless mum who lives in Raipur and denial; the other is someone else’s mother, whose only purpose is to serve as Bakri’s juvenile infatuation. Beyond that, Genius Infinity is a grand old boys’ club, entirely excluding the woman’s experience in the already male-dominated field of engineering.
The missing women
Criticising a work for what it’s not rather than what it is is tricky. For instance, it’s also not a political satire or a musical. And it’s a question that must be directed at the people commissioning the show as well. That would be Amazon Prime Video, who were recently in the eye of a storm for managing to release a full 14 comedy specials with not a single one by a female comic. (For perspective, there are over 580 million women in India.)
However, I’d argue that we should hold Rath to higher standards as well. For he is one of the smartest, most original comic voices in India, and definitely a personal favourite. He’s part of a young creative movement that champions progressive values, and I think there should have been an inherent responsibility to be more representative.
Nothing nice about them
Watching the show, I realised there wasn’t a single character I ‘liked’, not one whom I could root for unconditionally (which is absolutely not a criticism). Aakash, in mortal fear of his parents, chooses a life of ‘crime’, cheating, bribing, lying his way into the prestigious section A, and being a general pain to everyone in that brief period when his life is good.
Chandrakant is the typical nerd who likes to show the other kids up with his intellect, not to forget his unforgivable sin of being a snitch.
Chudail is a cynic and an ass. The peon smuggles in pills and pot, alcohol and cigarettes, and leaks exam papers to students.
Bala, the ‘muscle’, is a coward, bully, opportunist, all rolled into one. The big boss, Moorthy, is a dour beast who treats students like Chiclets, exploiting their parents’ projected ambitions — he wants to convert the coaching institute into a recognised school.
A cause to support
They each have (some) redeeming traits — the writing is strong enough to prevent broad characterisation — but ultimately, there’s really no redemption, no grand release, no real catharsis (although that may waver depending on how one views the climax).
While there’s much to feel sorry for, there’s no one whose cause you can truly support, which seems a deliberate creative decision. More than anything, it’s an indictment of the system itself, an acerbic attack at the culture of engineering and coaching institutes and an obsession with ‘IIT’.
The individuals, even the borderline-evil Moorthy, are all by-products of a broken system, and that’s what Laakhon Mein Ek takes aim at, hinting at caste prejudices, exploitation, abuse, violence, mental health, and much more besides. (A word for the score as well, the music mimicking the emotions with understated ease.)
To amplify this feeling, the motif of the prison is used. There’s an excruciating attention to detail to create a bitter, claustrophobic atmosphere that increasingly heightens as we get deeper into the narrative. Up first is the visual treatment, as there’s a perpetual feeling of the walls caving in. The dull, gloomy lighting and set design highlights the ennui inside. The walls are dilapidated and urinated on, the staff shuttles between callousness and apathy.
The hope-filled positivity of the kids themselves gives way to world-weariness before they turn into vicious lab rats attacking each other. Even the humour, used sparingly to cut the tension from time to time, is the dry kind that makes you wince rather than laugh out loud. All sense of loyalty, the one bond they seem to value, withers away. Bala, the muscle, plays the role of henchman to Moorthy’s prison warden to perfection, and the growing sense of resentment eventually reaches breaking point — a full-blown prison riot.
Laakhon Mein Ek is not without its flaws — for starters, basing its very premise on an overdone subject — but it succeeds in its raw depiction of a life that leaves lakhs of embittered students in its wake.

Akhil Sood is a freelance culture writer from New Delhi who wishes he’d studied engineering instead.

Is IIT Kharagpur Ignoring Student Suicide Cases? - The Quint

Is IIT Kharagpur Ignoring Student Suicide Cases?

Student bodies of the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Kharagpur, are convinced Nikhil Bhatiya killed himself, and that the institute abetted his suicide.
Nikhil Bhatiya, a final-year student of IIT-Kharagpur, was found in a pool of blood outside a hostel in the campus. The 23-year-old succumbed to his injuries on his way to the hospital.
“The institute has been understating the problem of suicides to maintain their reputation. No official notice or acknowledgment of this incident – not even a solidarity note – has yet been issued by the institute,” a student, who wished to maintain anonymity, said.
In a video released online, students can be seen attempting to hold the institute accountable for neglecting students’ mental health.
The video lists the names of students who killed themselves in 2017. It also lays out the events that facilitated their death.
From untimely action to shortage of ambulance, to incompetent medics even – a lot of factors appeared to have contributed to Bhatiya’s death. However, the most important factor was the absence of doctors and counsellors who can provide timely help to ailing students who live on campus.
Bhatiya died in an ambulance on his way to Kolkata, which took around 2.5 hours.
“The reasons for suicide and the role of the administration, faculty, management, counselling centre, and BC Roy Hospital, should be raised. There have been some major events in the past as well. And if this is neglected yet again, the chances of such mishaps happening again are very high. It's high time it is made a priority,” the student said.
An editorial on Scholar’s Avenue, a student-run media body, alleged Bhaitiya had signs of being mentally disturbed, and needed counseling. It described the events that preceded his suicide through statements of people who were present during the time.
According to the article, Bhatiya was sent home after it was observed that he was in a state of mental discomfort, and was allowed to resume classes without having produced his fitness certificate.
The students claim that these incidents are not being dealt with the gravity they require. Through their movement, the students have put forth two demands – provision for proper healthcare within the campus and the availability of counsellors for students.

Husband of IIT-Delhi scholar, who committed suicide in May, arrested - Hindustan Times

A subdivisional magistrate had conducted an inquiry and a case of dowry death was registered nearly a month later, on June 1.
DELHI Updated: Oct 27, 2017 00:32 Ist

Hindustan Times

                                   Manjula Devak,

“Agar ghar sambhalne ke liye, tum do baar maar kha bhi loge toh to kya problem” (In order to save your home, if you are beaten once in a while, then what is the problem) – 11.59 am, May 29, 2017.

Hours before she was found hanging inside her hostel room at the Indian Institute of Technology campus in Delhi, IIT scholar Manjula Devak, 28, had sent this message through WhatsApp to her friend detailing how her father-in-law told her that it was normal if her husband thrashed her to make their marriage work.

This message, among others, formed a crucial part of the evidence that led the police to arrest Manjula’s husband, Ritesh Virha last Thursday from Bhopal. He was arrested by a Delhi police team on alleged charges of dowry death. The team is in Bhopal to question his parents.

Chinmoy Biswal, additional deputy commissioner of police, south west district, confirmed Ritesh’s arrest from Bhopal.

On the evening of May 29, Manjula, a civil engineer pursuing PhD in IIT Delhi, was found hanging in her room. A topper of the water resources engineering master’s, she got married to her husband in 2013 but was living separately in the IIT hostel. Theirs was an arranged marriage.

Though the police did not find any suicide note, Manjula’s parents had accused Ritesh of harassing her for dowry forcing her to demand money from her parents to start a business.
A subdivisional magistrate had conducted an inquiry and a case of dowry death was registered nearly a month later, on June 1.

Standing outside the AIIMS mortuary a day after the suicide, Manoj Devak, Manjula’s father, told this correspondent: “It was a mistake to educate my daughter and send her to IIT. I should have saved all the money for her dowry.”

In the FIR, Devak, a railway employee, alleged that Manjula was regularly beaten and harassed by her husband for dowry. He alleged that after around 2 years of their marriage, Ritesh had quit his job and was staying with Manjula at her hostel in IIT. But, for the past one year she was staying separately in IIT.

According to his statement, Ritesh allegedly asked Manjula for around Rs 25 lakh to start a business and threatened divorce if the money was not paid.

The SDM and police team probing the case took statement of Manjula’s cousins and friends with whom she had shared the details of her alleged harassment over WhatsApp messages.
Another message that the police retrieved read, “bahut tang kardiya unlogo ne….woh log kamine hai salay (they have harassed me enough. hey are evil people).

“My daughter took her life because of the constant harassment by her husband and in-laws. She was troubled and wanted divorce. We have submitted all evidence to the police. We want the police to arrest her in-laws too,” Devak told Hindustan Times.

Till October 15, the Delhi police registered 104 cases of dowry deaths across the city. Dowry cases in Delhi have been on a rise over the years. Though crimes such as murder and robbery have been either decreasing or seeing a marginal rise each year, dowry cases have doubled in the last five years.
In 2012, there were 2,046 dowry cases while the figure rose to 3,053 last year.

From 2,046 cases in 2012 to 3,877 in 2016, dowry cases have almost doubled in the last 5 years.

On August 14, 2017 Hindustan Times published a special report about Delhi’s dowry-related cases. It analysed all the alleged dowry cases registered across Delhi in the first 6 months of 2017 and found that the tradition cuts across demographics. According to the statement of women in FIRs, their family’s were bullied for many types of dowry items - from an Audi to a buffalo, to a motorcycle or a house.

Between 2012 and October 15, 2017, at least 818 women died in dowry cases across the city. This year till October 15,103 women have died in alleged dowry death cases.

On October 13, 2017 the Supreme Court said it would re-consider its three-month-old ruling that restricted automatic arrests in dowry harassment cases, terming the judgment detrimental to women’s rights. The July order was passed in the backdrop of allegations that women and police were misuing the anti-dowry law.

In Delhi, the investigating officer can make arrests in a dowry harassment/dowry death case only after the direction of an officer of the rank of/ above a deputy commissioner of police. The order was issued by the Delhi police commissioner in 2008 after reports of many investigating officers misusing the law emerged.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Andhra coaching centre nightmare: Teacher caught on cam thrashing students

The man thrashing the students has been identified as Srinivasa Rao, a teacher in Deeksha IIT academy, Nandigama, Krishna District, Andhra Pradesh.

While both Andhra and Telangana have been marred with rampant student suicides owing to harassment and academic pressure, a video surfaced on the internet, showing a teacher thrashing his students.

The man thrashing the students has been identified as Srinivasa Rao, teacher in Deeksha IIT academy, Nandigama, Krishna District, Andhra Pradesh.
Reportedly the incident took place in August on the campus. However, it came to light on Tuesday.
In the video captured by the CCTV, Srinivasa is seen caning and slapping the students brutally. According to reports, the video was leaked by the institute staff.   
After attention was drawn to the incident, the coaching centre reportedly sacked the teacher.
According to reports, at least 50 students from the Telugu states—Andhra Pradesh and Telangana have committed suicide in the last couple of months, due to harassment by colleges and institutes or due to parental and academic pressure.
Following the spurt of suicides of students studying in Junior Colleges and IIT coaching institutes, governments of both the states have reprimanded the institute management and have asked them to follow the guidelines of giving adequate breaks and reducing the study hours.
Education Ministers G Srinivasa Rao and Kadiyam Srihari also asked the institutes to employ a counsellor, who could talk counsel the students and prevent suicides.
In a recently held meeting, Kadiyam directed the officials, “Inspect the schools and colleges. Study the teaching methods and come out with suitable guidelines so that students can learn in a peaceful and stress-free atmosphere.”
Meanwhile, in a separate case of physical assault, a six-year-old girl, studying in UKG in a private school in Vadadhi, Visakhapatnam, was hit with a cane by the teacher for failing to do her homework. As a result, the six-year-old has suffered a fracture.    

Save Education Committee calls for suicide prevention measures - Telengana Times

Save Education Committee calls for suicide prevention measures

The All India Save Education Committee (AISEO) has urged the State government to regulate corporate and private junior colleges and arrest suicides of students.

By Author  |   Published: 24th Oct 2017  2:56 pm

Hyderabad: The All India Save Education Committee (AISEO) has urged the State government to regulate corporate and private junior colleges and arrest suicides of students.
Prof. PL Visweswara Rao, State President, AISEO, said for the last few years, corporate colleges could not get ranks in competitive examinations such as for IITs and they have been exerting heavy pressure on the students which was driving them to suicide.
On Tuesday, AISEO and All India Democratic Students’ Organization (AIDSO) organised a round table conference on students’ suicides at the Somajiguda Press Club.
Citing information obtained through the Right to Information Act, Rao alleged that Sri Chaitanya and Narayana Junior Colleges did not have permission to run hostels. He pointed out that close to 20 students were staying in a single room and wanted the government to restrict two or three students per room.
He demanded the State government to issue a common academic calendar for junior colleges across the State, besides ensuring entertainment, sports and games to students.
“The committee demands for constitution of counselling centres as well. Parents should be allowed to meet their wards in the hostels. Before affiliation is given to the junior colleges, the government should ensure that colleges meet all prerequisites like playgrounds and spacious classrooms among others. Wherever there are girls’ colleges, female teachers should be recruited,” he said.
Bharat Kumar Reddy, psychiatrist, said though there is heavy academic stress on the students, only three per cent of them report to counselling centres.
Gangadhar, President, AIDSO demanded the government to dis-affiliate colleges which were responsible for suicides of students.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

50 deaths in 60 days: Are coaching centres driving students to suicide? - Hindustan Times

The fear of letting their family down, peer pressure and low self-esteem can compel students to take the extreme step
EDITORIALS Updated: Oct 22, 2017 17:30 Ist
Hindustan Times

Students cross an IIT - JEE preparation institute's promotional board in Delhi. Despite the obsession with engineering, 80% of the engineers in India are unemployable, says the National Employability Report 2016 by Aspiring Minds. (Saumya Khandelwal/HT)

The pressure to succeed can often prove fatal. Last week, a 17-year-old girl aspiring to be a doctor from rural Andhra Pradesh hanged herself at her Hyderabad hostel. Samyuktha, who had scored 95% in class 12 and enrolled at a coaching institute to prepare for the entrance exams, left a note behind, which mentioned the growing pressure of expectations. 

Last month, unable to tolerate the jibes of his teachers who insisted he wasn’t good enough, another 17-year-old student in Andhra Pradesh jumped off a building. In the last two months alone, more than 50 students have reportedly committed suicide across Telangana and Andhra Pradesh. 

On Wednesday, disturbed by all this, Andhra Pradesh chief minister Chandrababu Naidu met managers of educational institutes. New rules introduced in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana stop teachers from subjecting students to verbal or physical assault . There have been many instances of teachers telling students that they will not make the grade. Also, they can’t be made to attend classes for more than eight hours a day at a stretch and institutes must hire trained staff to counsel students.

In all these cases, the impressive track record of students from the two states in clearing exams to coveted institutes such as IITs and medical colleges was blamed for the mushrooming of pressure-cooker like coaching institutes. But Andhra and Telangana are not alone. In the coaching hub of Kota in Rajasthan, where 1.75 lakh students go every year dreaming of clearing engineering and medical entrance exams, a hostel association has installed ‘suicide-proof’ fans in students’ rooms, in a short-sighted and bizarre move to address the problem without going into the root causes. The 2016 National Crime Record Bureau said at least 17 students committed suicide in Kota owing to the fear of failure. Because of the limited number of medical and engineering seats in State-run institutes, for every successful person, there are thousands of others who don’t make the cut.

Although there are many more private universities in the country now, but their tuition fees are prohibitive for many students. The availability of seats keeps shrinking as the student moves from primary to secondary to higher education. The fear of letting their parents down, peer pressure and low self-esteem drives students to suicide. Earlier this year, in April, the HRD Ministry had written to states asking them to regulate private coaching institutions, expressing concern over the spate of student suicides. A report by the Ashok Misra committee, submitted to the HRD ministry in November 2015 also proposed setting up a regulatory mechanism. Since the regulation of secondary education is a state subject, the onus of evolving such a mechanism also falls upon the states. The government’s efforts aside, the inability to procure admission into an engineering college should not be viewed as worth ending one’s life for. Despite the obsession with engineering, 80% of the engineers in India are unemployable, says the National Employability Report 2016 by Aspiring Minds. The curriculum is outdated and geared towards rote learning. It is because education is solely focused on a competitive job market that so much pressure is being put on students, but the aim of the authorities should be to convince students that education is part of a larger process of acquiring knowledge.

IIT student dies after falling off hostel terrace Sunday 22 - Manorama On Line

Nikhil Bhatiya, a final year student of mining engineering, was found in a pool of blood on the ground of the Lal Bahadur Hall of the campus on Saturday morning. Photo: Getty Images...

Kharagpur, West Bengal: An engineering student of the IIT Kharagpur died after falling off the hoste...

Read more at: http://english.manoramaonline.com/news/nation/2017/10/22/iit-student-dies-falling-off-hostel-terrace-kharagpur.html

IIT Kharagpur student dies after falling off hostel building - Tribune

Posted at: Oct 22, 2017, 12:39 PM; 

Kharagpur (WB), October 22
A student of the IIT Kharagpur died after falling off the terrace of a hostel, the police said on Sunday.

Nikhil Bhatia, a final-year student of mining engineering, was found in a pool of blood on the ground of the Lal Bahadur Hall of the campus on Saturday morning.

Soon the seriously injured 23-year-old student was taken to the campus hospital and later to a private hospital where he was declared brought dead.

An inquiry is on whether Bhatia fell off accidentally or was pushed. The suicide angle is also being probed, they said.

IIT officials said Bhatia was a brilliant student, but was lately found depressed. His parents, residents of Mumbai, had been informed. PTI

Mumbai boy falls from IIT-Kharagpur hostel building, dies - TNN

TNN | Updated: Oct 22, 2017, 10:27 IST

  • A 23-year-old student from Mumbai died after falling off a building terrace on the IIT Kharagpur campus on Saturday.
  • Initially, police said they were probing if he fell off accidentally, jumped off or was pushed by someone but later they lodged a case of 'unnatural death'.
A 23-year-old student from Mumbai died after falling off a building terrace on the IIT Kharagpur campus on Saturday.

Police sources said Nikhil Bhatia, a final-year mining engineering student and resident of Vidyasagar Hall (hostel), was last seen by his friends on Saturday morning while brushing teeth and having breakfast. He later went to Lal Bahadur Shastri (LBS) Hall to meet a friend.

"Around 11.15 am, I was informed that a student had fallen off LBS building," said Debashis Chakraborty, associate professor (mining engineering) and faculty adviser. Staff and students of LBS Hall rushed out on hearing a loud thud and found Nikhil sprawled on the ground. They rushed him to the hospital on campus, where he was detected with serious fractures on both legs and other injuries and referred to West Bank Hospital in Howrah, 125km away.

Was there no hospital between Kharagpur and Howrah? A precious life was lost probably due to lack of proper medical facilities and judgment. Bengal, wake up and look beyond the politics of colour and religion.
Subhas Basu

A West Bank spokesperson said, "Nikhil was brought in the afternoon with injuries. Doctors found him dead on arrival. It is suspected that he suffered internal haemorrhage." Initially, police said they were probing if he fell off accidentally, jumped off or was pushed by someone and wait till they could speak to him. Later, they lodged a case of "unnatural death".

Chakraborty said Nikhil was suffering from depression and was taken for counselling around six weeks ago. "We informed his father, a senior officer at a nationalised bank, who came down from Mumbai and took him back home," Chakraborty said, adding that he returned a few days ago and sat for an exam. 

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Laakhon Mein Ek is brilliant, but no genius takedown of IIT coaching nightmare - Daily O

The Amazon Prime Original series is created by Biswa Kalyan Rath, a stand-up comedian who went to an IIT himself.

Aditya Mani Jha

Writer works at Penguin Random House India. The views expressed here are his own.

To have your protagonist — or one of your primary cast members, at the very least — shoot a YouTube video is becoming a very popular device in both Hollywood and Bollywood. The DIY ethos of such an endeavour communicates an "underdog-on-the-rise" vibe that would, in times gone by, have taken up several scenes and dialogues to establish. And so we have Zaira Wasim YouTubing her way to fame in the upcoming film Secret Superstar. A few years ago, Devi Lal (Salman Khan) fighting off goons in Kick was secretly shot and propelled to online fame. The recent Netflix stoner comedy Disjointed features some hilarious scenes that use this device, not least the ones featuring fan favourites Dank and Dabby, uber-stoners and YouTube stars.

Which is why the first scene of Laakhon Mein Ek felt particularly apt — the protagonist Aakash Gupta (Ritwik Sahore, rock-solid with moments of brilliance) is shooting a YouTube video of himself mimicking various Bollywood actors, calling it "Aakash Ki Aawazein" (Aakash's voices). There was a time when YouTubing your own act had novelty value, but now not so much. This chimes well with the show's double-meaning name: "Laakhon Mein Ek" literally means "one in a million"; a remarkable person or thing. But "one in a million" can also refer to the nameless, faceless everyman, lost in a crowd of near-identical peers. And therein lies the crux of the story: when a very specific achievement is being chased by tens of millions of people, including everyone around you, can you still say you're in pursuit of something special? And when you do reach that specific endpoint, can you still say the whole thing was an exercise in free will?

In the world of this show, this specific endpoint is a seat at an IIT (Indian Institute of Technology). Laakhon Mein Ek, an Amazon Prime original, is set at a Vijayawada residential coaching institute (named "Genius Infinity" with straight-faced hyperbole) which feels like a composite of every coaching class horror story you have ever heard. At the beginning of the show, we see Aakash's parents soft-coercing him into joining Genius Infinity, even though he himself is convinced that he has no aptitude for science. Despite his low marks in the Class X board examinations (55 per cent), Aakash's parents are convinced that hard work and sheer will are enough to close the gap, to overcome the odds.

The odds, as Aakash finds out, are enormous. From the day he steps inside Genius Infinity, it is clear that everything is stacked against him. He has been placed in the infamous Section D, allotted to students in lowest bracket of Class X marks. Section D students are stuffed in painfully cramped rooms, they receive the worst food, classroom teaching is virtually non-existent and for the most part, they are left to their own devices. And all this while actually paying more than sections A-C, who receive "scholarships" on account of having higher Class X marks. In this hostile atmosphere, Aakash quickly makes friends with two fellow Section D travellers, Chudail (Alam Khan, delightfully uninhibited) and Bakri (Jay Thakkar, starts off as a caricature but comes into his own nicely). The Genius Infinity racket is steered with an iron fist by Mr Moorthy and his man Friday, Bala.

Once the initial, predictable comedic hijinks are out of the way (these do include some enjoyable tomfoolery, still, courtesy Chudail), the show gets down to what I see as its two big themes: a) Privilege and b) the tyranny of the bourgeois Indian hivemind.

Laakhon Me Ek has been created by Biswa Kalyan Rath, the up-and-coming stand-up comedian who went to an IIT himself.
Let us discuss the latter first. Aakash's parents, the Guptas, are drawn with broad brushstrokes, true. But they remain representative of the salaried middle-class in India. Mr Gupta has a distinctly Nehruvian belief in the indomitable power of hard work and sincerity: he is austere, unrelenting, and uses the moral high ground to power through whenever he senses Aakash resisting his bullying. Mrs Gupta is, well, a somewhat lazily written mother. I would have liked to see her doing something other than conduct pujas and feed her son and try to tone down Mr Gupta's stentorian heat (all well-established Reema Lagoo territory). But within those constraints, she plays her part well.
And now for the P-word: Privilege. Laakhon Mein Ek has been created by Biswa Kalyan Rath, the up-and-coming stand-up comedian who went to an IIT himself; IIT Kharagpur, in fact (in the interests of full disclosure, so did this writer, and at the same time). And although the episodes are directed by Abhishek Sengupta, Rath has co-written the screenplay with Vaspar Dandiwala. In a recent interview, Rath said that one of the starting points of the show was his experience playing school-level sports: specifically, being expected to compete with moneyed CBSE schools while attending a government-run school which had practically no sports equipment, no ground, and no signs of ever improving.
This experience has definitely informed the Section A/Section D dynamic in Laakhon Mein Ek. When Aakash contemplates cheating in order to "jump" from Section D to Section A, we are told that nobody has managed this ever, in all the years that Genius Infinity has seen.
But Section A students are only Section A because they capitalised on their privilege to achieve higher Class X marks. Moreover, most of them have been attending IIT coaching classes since Class VIII, thus earning them a three-year head start on the Section D boys. And when you consider that their spacious living quarters, better food and passionate, involved teachers are effectively being paid for by the Section D parents, you realise what is going on.
This is a pack of hyenas, ripping off the flesh of the poor, offering most of it to the rich, predatory lions as jungle tribute — and gulping down the rest. But even here, Rath and co complicate the narrative further: almost-but-not-quite by accident, we learn that Chandu, the nerdiest, most annoying member of Section A, belongs to an unspecified lower caste, which he admits while being questioned by Bakri, a well-off Brahmin not particularly concerned about his IIT chances.
Suddenly, we see Chandu's supposedly annoying habits in a new light: he has to pursue his studies with single-minded fervour, even when he is humiliated for it by his "cooler" classmates, because the caste privileges that cushion the likes of Bakri are not an option for him. It is a casually brilliant moment, one which Rath and his co-writers should be very happy about.
And yet, this is also where I feel Laakhon Mein Ek should have done a bit more. How does caste feed into the insidious, one-size-fits-all idea of "merit"? How does this "merit" then translate into a convenient catchword that brushes just about any discrimination under the carpet? How do the likes of Bakri et al grow up into IITians treating their Dalit classmates like dirt? Manish Kumar from IIT Roorkee killed himself in 2011.
Madhuri Sale from IIT Kanpur killed herself in 2010. Mallepallu Srikant from IIT Bombay killed himself in 2007. In some of these cases, there were horrific posts by their own classmates that basically said, "We're sorry but this is what happens when you put IIT-level pressure on someone not 'meritorious' enough to deal with it."
In the case of Aniket Ambhore, an IIT Bombay student, his professors had said basically the same thing to his parents, in a letter written shortly before his suicide, suggesting that the Ambhores move their son to a "normal" engineering college.
Scenes featuring a non-Brahmin character's frustration at caste privilege are rare enough for an Indian web series — and I've already praised the show for it — but I can't help but feel that an opportunity was missed here. The Section D story is a much-needed step in the right direction, but why not go whole hog and say it out aloud, D for Dalit? Why not hire Dalit writers and actors to tell their own stories?
To sum up, I will say this, in the interests of fairness: The things I'm asking for are things that zero Indian shows have delivered so far. And therefore, measured in those terms, Laakhon Mein Ek is a success, smartly written, competently shot with a no-frills aesthetic, and brilliantly acted. Which is why it's all the more important that we demand these things of creators like Rath, of relatively new and unencumbered platforms like Amazon Prime.
Who else are we going to demand things from, Chetan Bhagat?

Stress toll: In a month 50 students kill self in Andhra Pradesh, Telangana - TNN

TNN | Oct 16, 2017, 09:19 IST

HYDERABAD: Students from the Telugu states might be at the top when it comes to securing IIT seats, but unfortunately , they are also leading the list when it comes to suicide.Since the beginning of the academic year, about 100 students have committed suicide. The number of student suicides in AP and Telangana has already reached 50 this month. 

While government is yet to respond on the issue, student organizations have given a bandh call in educational institutions on Monday . 

Activists blamed these suicides on the pressure to excel in studies and the absense of counsellors in colleges. Several educationalists blamed violent video games. 

"During 1995 to 2000, more than 1,400 students committed suicide and the government had formed a committee to look into reasons for these suicides. After thorough study, the committee recommended having counsellors in the colleges. But unfortunately, no college has implemented the recommendation and it's high time they do it as the current situ ation is more or less same," said P Madhusudhan Reddy, president, Government Inter Colleges Association. 

He further said as per the committee's recommendation, a criminal case should be booked against the college management. "These days, students spend a lot of time on mobile watching videos and playing games. Most of these games are violent and this in turn is making them violent, which is encouraging them to hurt themselves or someone else," said Amaranth V , an educationalist. 

Taking the recent case of an intermediate student leaving home due to academic pressure, child right activists said that criminal case should be booked against the educational institutions when a child commits suicide or harms himself.

Activists say the education department should act quickly as tens of students are committing suicide. City psychologists further said that forcing students to follow a `prison-like regime' will either make them aggressive or depressed and added that parents should seek help for their wards.

ABVP declares state-wide bandh

The Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) declared state-wide bandh of corporate educational institutions on Monday following series of student suicide.

According to a media communique issued by ABVP, they will protest against the Telangana government's negligence towards the issue. "In the past three years, the government has been silent on the student suicides in corporate educational institutions. It is time that the government cracks a whip on these institutions to save future of lakhs of students," said Javvaji Dileep, Hyderabad city secretary of ABVP.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Harmless hostel rite or sadistic abuse? IIT-Kanpur suspensions put focus back on ragging - Scroll.In

The engineering college has suspended 22 students for ragging, 16 of them for three years.

Published Oct 13, 2017 · 06:30 am

                              PTI photo

Shivam Yadav’s bruises have long faded but emotionally, he is still scarred.
After dinner one April night in 2013, seven to eight senior students cornered him in his hostel room at Devi Ahilya Vishwavidyalaya in Indore and rained blows upon him. Some used sticks, others their bare hands. One blow caught Yadav on the neck and left him gasping for breath. The attackers fled. That session of violent ragging ended with Yadav making a trip to the emergency room.
“But that was not the worst part,” said Yadav, who graduated with a degree in pharmacy last year and now works with a multinational food and drink company in Gwalior. “That was the mental abuse I suffered for the whole year leading to that night.”

He said that he was verbally abused, frequently beaten and received no support from university officials. “It ruined my career,” he said. “I was not able to focus and later, when I complained, college authorities were hostile to me. I stood up for myself but it changed me. I get angry very easily, even violent, if I feel someone is being wronged.”

Yadav agrees with the findings of the Supreme Court-initiated study, Psychosocial Study of Ragging in Selected Educational Institutions in India (2015). In Yadav’s case, some students were expelled from the hostel after he lodged a complaint with the anti-ragging helpline of the University Grants Commission – India’s higher education regulator – in July 2013.

On Monday, the Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur, suspended 16 second-year students for three years, and six for one year, for ragging. First-year students had filed a mass complaint in August alleging, among other things, that they had been forced to strip. “This is the first time the institution has taken action against ragging in a decade,” said a senior faculty member who did not wish to be identified.

The faculty member found that there have been similar ragging cases in Kanpur and other IITs, which did not lead to complaints. Another student who graduated last year attested to this. “My friends told us [about the ragging] when were in third year,” said the student.

The ‘buzzer game’
A committee constituted on a 2009 Supreme Court order studied, for the first time, the prevalence and causes of ragging over 2012 to 2015. The Psychosocial Study involved a survey of 10,632 students in 37 colleges, most of them professional ones, interviews with 187 students and group discussions. 

The report, made public in August, observes:
“The fact that ragging occurs among youth means that youth-specific developmental issues such as the need to belong and be accepted within the peer world, and the excitement and anxiety about becoming an adult, including that around sexuality, play an important role in ragging.”  

This explains both the forms of ragging and the students’ reluctance to complain. The IIT-Kanpur student who graduated last year was told her batchmates had played “the buzzer game” in their first year. It involves stripping and answering questions. “If you give a wrong or stupid answer, you are asked to touch the other person [on the genitals] but only for a second, like pressing a buzzer,” she said. “But no one complained, and by third year everyone was laughing about it.” According to her, the ragging period, an initiation rite, lasts for about 10 days in an IIT.

For students like Yadav, it can last for months.
According to the study, ragging is most prevalent in medical colleges where 48.3% students reported they were ragged, including 3.8% who said they were “severely ragged”. Among engineering students, 44.5% said they were ragged, 4.6% severely. Also, 4.2% said they experienced beatings and physical punishments, and 1.4% reported sexual ragging.
The study found that while 35.7% students believe “ragging prepares students to deal with the harshness of the outside world”, about an equal number – 35.5% – think it has “long-lasting emotional effect”.

That the absence of complaints regarding ragging does not mean endorsement of the practice is evident from letters the IIT-Kanpur professor received in response to his posts on the practice on social media. Students and alumni of IITs in Kharagpur, Banaras Hindu University and Guwahati wrote back to him on the subject. “I saw the same description and terminology [in their letters],” said the IIT-Kanpur professor. 

Students reported that the senior who occupied the hostel room before them becomes their baap (father) and boss. “All new students spend one night in the rooms of their baaps,” he said. “They can be made to sit in the nude for hours, touch each other or roam the wing wearing their underwear over their trousers. I offered to file a police complaint on behalf of the student in Guwahati but he refused.”

Afraid to complain
Students and teachers said that in IITs, although first-year students are given the option to leave or even refuse to participate while being ragged, very few do because of peer pressure and the fear of being targeted later. Elsewhere, as in the case of Yadav, seniors react differently to disobedience.

The importance of seniors is impressed upon new entrants from the start. “Juniors fear they will become a joke if they refuse to participate, that their seniors will not help them,” said the IIT professor. “The promised reward is the friendship and help of seniors over the next three years.”

Students also fear a social boycott, a harrowing experience in student residences, added Gaurav Singhal, who studied chemical engineering at IIT-Kanpur from 1998-2002. He now teaches and volunteers with Delhi-based anti-ragging non-profit, Society Against Violence in Education, or Save.
Complaints rarely yield effective action.

Yadav, who joined his institute in 2012 had complied with all demands of song and dance performances. He started protesting when he was allegedly ordered to buy liquor and cigarettes and re-enact porn scenes. “This provoked the seniors,” he said. “They ordered a boycott, abused me and grew more violent.” Before calling the University Grants Commission, Yadav had complained to university officials multiple times. But he alleged that each time, they merely informed the perpetrators about the complaint who redoubled their abuse as payback.
The University Grants Commission’s regulations on ragging, framed in 2009 in response to another Supreme Court case on the subject, place the onus of both prevention and action upon the institution.
“We opposed this,” said Meera Kaura Patel, a Supreme Court lawyer and Save’s legal head. “The institution has vested interests. Its reputation is at stake and in many cases, they tell students to compromise and not file FIRs [First Information Reports with the police].”

The IITs have a different problem. “From about 2006, the disciplinary committees stopped punishments [for ragging] fearing suicides,” said the IIT-Kanpur professor

“Over 2006-’08, there were about ten to eleven suicides. Even in the couple of cases where termination [orders] were given [for other reasons], the concerned students were allowed to appeal after a semester and the senate allowed them to resume.”

Over the last decade ragging, a practice that had practically ended in IIT-Kanpur around 2006, has resumed. “In fact, the suspended students argued they had been similarly ragged, that it is the culture of hostels and that the faculty would not understand it,” said the senior faculty member from IIT-Kanpur.

Dropping out
But ragging has also destroyed careers. As lawyer Meera Kaura Patel explained, many victims abandon their studies, even coveted medical college seats, to escape ragging. She recounted a 2012 case from a public medical college in Tamil Nadu in which a second-year student, trying to protect a junior from ragging, entered into a fight with his senior. “Before he could file a police complaint, the senior students had already filed a false one [against him],” she said. “He was terrified and left.”
Another student, from the School of Planning and Architecture in Delhi, is fighting it out in the Delhi High Court but had to abandon his studies.
“He had cleared the exam in 2012 after trying for two to three years,” said Patel. “He was made to perform physical exercises with bricks on his back and tore a ligament. He returned home in Jharkhand for treatment but fell short of attendance and the institute refused to let him write his exam.” His explanation and complaint of ragging drew no sympathy, said Patel. “And these cases usually have no witnesses because others have to continue in the same institution,” she said, adding that she believes IIT-Kanpur took action because students complained as a group.

Patel also believes that the only way to hold an institution accountable is by filing a First Information Report. “The UGC [University Grants Commission] regulation requires institutions to file an FIR within 24 hours of receiving a complaint which IIT-Kanpur did not,” she said. Activists from Save intend to lean on IIT-Kanpur to file an FIR too.

We welcome your comments at letters@scroll.in.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Marks still on notice boards as schools, colleges fail to see writing on the wall - New Indian Express

Marks still on notice boards as schools, colleges fail to see writing on the wall

By Express News Service  |   Published: 12th October 2017 

VIJAYAWADA: The number of Intermediate student suicides in the state has marked a startling rise in the last month and a half, accounting for 6 of the total 26 deaths in the last three years. Jolted from its reverie, the government has gone into damage control mode, promising to ensure the anti-suicide guidelines for colleges framed by the Chakrapani Committee is strictly implemented. The 2-member Committee’s report which was tabled in the state Cabinet on Tuesday listed out a set of Dos and Don’ts to check suicidal tendencies among students, including that their marks not be displayed on notice boards. But a quick visit to most colleges is enough for anyone to understand that the institutes have tossed caution and the guidelines to the wind.
The list included suggestions against frequently shifting students from one section to another based on their marks and conducting more than one exam per subject in a month.Similarly, students of Class VI to Class VIII seem to be struggling under pressure from career foundation and advanced career foundation classes. Here too, marks are put up on notice boards and tests conducted on a weekly basis.Sai Priya (name changed) a Class VIII student who attends the advanced foundation course told TNIE she is often stressed out. “I want to become a good engineer. That is why I want to excel in the course and score good marks. I felt very bad last month as I went down from third rank to 10th rank because I was ill,” she said.Students who excel in career foundation courses are sent to advanced career foundation classes, where they are rated based on their ranks on a weekly basis. 
The best students in the state are sent to the advanced group of their district, where they would be having integrated classes with both regular lessons and career foundation courses both at a go from morning 9 am to 5 pm.Meanwhile, Vijayawada Municipal Schools deputy DEO Durga Prasad asserts that the career foundation course is their most prestigious project. “We would like to prove that municipal school students have made it the civil services and the IITs,” he said. 
Inter student kills himself in Anantapur
Close on the heels of an intermediate girl committing suicide in the college premises by consuming pesticide in Nuzvid town of Krishna district, a 17-year-old ended his life by consuming sleeping pills on Wednesday. The incident took place at Sri Satyasai Junior College hostel.