Ramesh Kumar (name changed) of Bulandshahr, Uttar Pradesh, had the worst year of his life in 2023. His family is still coming to terms with the death of their oldest son, who committed suicide in a hostel room in Kota, Rajasthan, where he had been studying for the medical entrance test for the previous two years.
Kumar’s kid is one of 26 coaching students who committed suicide in Kota this year, the greatest number ever. Last year, the figure was 15.
The recent incidence of student suicides compelled stakeholders to take drastic measures such as putting anti-hanging mechanisms in hostel room fans and iron netting in balconies and lobbies.
Mourning the loss of his son, Kumar has decided to bring back his younger son, who had moved to Kota earlier this year and was preparing for the engineering entrance exam JEE.
“They were living in separate hostels as they were enrolled in different coaching institutes. Our plan was that in 2024, my wife would move to Kota and rent a house so the three of them could live together and the children could prepare for the entrance exams in the comfort of home. I had never imagined that my son would not be there by then…,” he told PTI.
“I wanted both my children to study at the best colleges and become doctors and engineers but not at the cost of their lives We decided to call our younger son back to Bulandshahr and continue with his schooling here. We are not willing to take any further risk,” he added.
Every year, over two lakh students go to Kota to study for competitive tests such as the Joint Entrance Examination (JEE) for engineering and the National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test (NEET) for medical school admission.
Packed schedules, intense competition, constant pressure to do better, the burden of parents’ expectations, and feeling isolated are just a few of the issues students face at the coaching hub.
Farheed Hussain’s family in West Bengal’s Birbhum area is still seeking answers about what prompted his son to take such drastic measures.
“He was a very bright student; I encouraged him to become a doctor but never forced him.” “He used to do well in the routine tests, and I don’t know why he felt compelled to end his life then,” Hussain, holding back tears, added.
Seeking drastic measures during a difficult moment, the Kota government and coaching industry players went into action and implemented a variety of efforts to prevent student suicides. The effectiveness of these interventions will be determined in 2024.
Among the measures taken this year to prevent further deaths were “suicide proofing” fans in hostel rooms, installation of nets in balconies and lobbies to prevent students from ending their lives, restrictions on glorification of toppers, directives for keeping results of routine tests confidential, and enlisting mess workers and tiffin service providers to flag early signs of stress if a student is not consuming food properly.
The Kota Hostel Association debated adding spring coils in hostel fans in 2017. This gadget operates on the principle that if an object weighing more than 20 kilograms is hanging from it, the spring linked to it stretches, making suicide impossible. Simultaneously, a siren sounds.
However, it was not popular among the city’s estimated 25,000 paying guest facilities. However, when the number of suicides reached an all-time high in August, the district administration issued an order requiring the installation of anti-hanging mechanisms in hostel room fans.
The district government also banned the normal examinations administered by coaching institutes for more than two months.
Wardens and staff members at Kota hostels are receiving professional training in mess management, psychological and behavioral counseling, and other elements of student care in order to better prepare them to combat the growing number of suicides.
The Chambal Hostel Association, Coral Hostel Association, and Kota Hostels’ Association signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Kota’s Jai Minesh Tribal University to design special Hostel Management certificate courses for wardens and staff members.
While the Kota Police urged hostel wardens to actively participate in the “darwaze pe dastak (knock on door)” campaign, mess staff and tiffin suppliers were asked to report if a student is regularly missing from the mess and skips meals, or if anyone’s tiffin is discovered unconsumed.
The local police department established a dedicated student cell to reach out to competitive exam candidates and seek to spot early indications of stress and despair.
According to officials, the cell comprises 11 police personnel. They were chosen as all are in their 40s and have teenage children that will help them understand the challenges faced by the students.
Stay Update with FELA NEWS!