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75,000 student suicides between 2007 and 2016 in India!

Academic pressure, caste-based discrimination found to be major causes

Sabrangindia 28 Nov 2019

StudentsImage Courtesy: thepolicytimes.com

Several successive cases of student suicides, that have since been dubbed ‘institutional murder’, have been weighing on the nation’s collective conscience of late. Rohith Vemula, a 26-year-old PhD student killed himself in 2016 inside the campus of Hyderabad Central University.

More recently, on November 9 this year, Fatima Lathif, a first-year student persuing a master’s degree in humanities and development studies (integrated) in IIT Madras, committed suicide by hanging herself.

On May 22, Dr. Payal Tadvi, a 23 year old doctor hailing from a tribal community in Jalgaon allegedly committed suicide at her hostel in Mumbai’s prestigious Nair Hospital after being allegedly harassed by three seniors who would use casteist slurs against her.

On March 13, Muthukrishnan Jeevanandham AKA Rajini Krish, was found hanging from a ceiling in a friend’s room in Munirka, a locality that houses hundreds of students besides middle class families, in Delhi.

The numbers

These are just four names. In fact, more than 75,000 students that have taken their lives in the period between 2007 to 2016. India has the highest suicide rate, with over 38,000 students committing suicide since 2015, that’s about six students committing suicide every day due to academic failure, reported Business Insider.

A report by Indiaspend found that student suicides stood at 8,934 in 2015. In 2015, Maharashtra reported most student suicides of any state: 1,230 of 8,934 (14%) nationwide, followed by Tamil Nadu (955) and Chhattisgarh (625). Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu are among India’s most advanced states, and their high rate of suicides could reflect the pressures of economic growth.


(Source – Business Standard)

The National Crime Records Bureau has withheld information about suicides in India since after 2016.

Reasons for the growing numbers

It is common knowledge that one of the most common reasons for the spike in student suicides is the rising academic pressure they are faced with. Surveys and studies conducted by the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) and Christian Medical College (CMC) pointed out that failure in examinations alone caused 2,403 suicides in India in 2014. In the same year 45 students from Kota – India’s hub for IIT aspirants took their lives, the number having gone up 60% from the previous year.

This number soared to 2,646 in 2015 and abated a little, standing at 2,413 in 2016, The Quartz reported.

In 2018, nineteen students took their lives in Telangana after the release of intermediate examination results. Parents alleged discrepancies in evaluation, blaming the state board of Intermediate Education and the Telangana government who had outsourced the evaluation to a firm called Globarena.

Even premier institutes saw a spike in student suicides, with IIT Madras recording its fifth suicide in Fathima Lathif’s death this year.

The Tribune India reported that between 2008 and 2011, IITs, IIMs and National Institutes of Technology (NITs) together reported 26 student suicides; 16 of these at IITs alone at seven at NITs. Eighty percent IIT suicides in the last three years involve most students who are undergraduates (UGs). Causes of stress vary as an IIT Delhi student explains, "The first year is tough as you are getting to absorb the system where professors naturally demand performance from you. That’s the nature of IITs. The stress of scoring is the highest in the first two years. In the final year, peer pressure is at its worst as you face the fiercely competitive campus placements. Here top scorers are major gainers; hence the pressure on low scorers."


(Source – Tribune India)

However, academic pressure isn’t the only reason for the spike in student suicides. The Economic and Political Weekly (EPW) observes that many of the students admitted in institutes of higher learning are from marginalized castes and religious minorities – familiar names include Rohith Vemula, Payal Tadvi and Fathima Lathif among scores of others.

It is well known that students from marginalized groups making good use of the opportunities provided by reservation and quotas are frequently thought of as ‘taking a share of the pie’, not based on their merit, but on their caste or socio-economic background.

The study quoted by Bloomberg Quint reads, “Marginalised youth in institutions of higher education go through a lot of struggle to perform as compared to non-marginalised youth. In addition, they are constantly humiliated by the ‘others’ – colleagues, teachers, etc., all those who swear by ‘meritocracy’.”

However, it must be understood, that these students who are victims of ‘othering’, have to not only fight caste but fare better at academics to prove to be ‘at par’ with alleging discrimination. The fights of students from marginalized groups begins early, when they leave their comfortable circle, moving into a bigger institute for better studies. Not only do they have the pressure to adjust to the new environment and demonstrate their rightful admission in the course, but also face the lack of empathy from seniors which pushes them to the brink of isolation.

In May 2007, a committee formed by the Union Health and Welfare Ministry constituted a three member committee to probe the prevalence of caste discrimination in educational institutions, which the committee reported to be in the affirmative.

Yet, nobody took stock of the report and the country witnessed 23 Dalit students commit suicides between 2008 and 2016, all due to caste-based discrimination.

In 2008, Senthil Kumar, a student from the University of Hyderabad committed suicide after being discriminated on the basis of caste by his professor. IIT Roorkee’s Manish Kumar Guddolian jumped to his death from the fifth floor of his hostel in 2011 after he faced caste-based bullying for months. Rohith Vemula’s death shook the nation and one thought this would slow the spate of caste spurred suicides, but then Dr. Payal Tadvi and Fathima Lathif both ended their lives owing to the same menace.

Yet, it has become very difficult for most sections of the society to acknowledge to see the issue as it is. Covering it under the garb of ‘depression’, nobody wants to put blame on the factors and hostile social environment that triggers it.

Even the media, apart from sensationalizing the issue, has not helped much. After flashing suicide notes on TV and sharing them on social media, the media fails at pulling up the people responsible for the growing ‘institutional murders’ in India’s educational institutions.

Even worse, are the authorities in these institutions who even refuse to acknowledge their role, dismissing these incidents by sweeping them under the carpet. Fathima Lathif’s parents accused faculty members of harassing their daughter, forcing her to take the extreme step. So, who is to be held accountable?

Institutes have set up counseling and wellness centres, but Indiaspend reports that India in 2017 had only allocated 0.06% of its budget to mental health, even lower than Bangladesh which was as 0.44%. India faces an approximate 87% shortage of mental health professionals. In 2017, the country had 3,800 psychiatrists, 898 clinical psychologists, 850 psychiatric social workers and 1,500 psychiatric nurses. This meant only 3 psychologists per million people, rounding up to a shortage of 66,200 psychiatrists for the country.

India must make sure to do what it can to stop the loss of such bright young lives. Apart from easing academic pressure and giving psychiatric help, our first step towards controlling the menace must be sensitization. The caste issue in the majority of suicides in premier educations must be accepted. The assimilation of these oppressed children into the mainstream is the only way the country will be able to curbing this plague.

Related:

Islamophobia: What’s Common between Payal Tadvi and Fathima Latif

Death of Fathima Latheef a blatant case of discrimination and Islamophobia, say students

Abuse & Discrimination Blacken India’s Institutes of ‘Higher Learning’

My birth is my fatal accident, remembering Rohith Vemula’s last letter

 

75,000 student suicides between 2007 and 2016 in India!

Academic pressure, caste-based discrimination found to be major causes

StudentsImage Courtesy: thepolicytimes.com

Several successive cases of student suicides, that have since been dubbed ‘institutional murder’, have been weighing on the nation’s collective conscience of late. Rohith Vemula, a 26-year-old PhD student killed himself in 2016 inside the campus of Hyderabad Central University.

More recently, on November 9 this year, Fatima Lathif, a first-year student persuing a master’s degree in humanities and development studies (integrated) in IIT Madras, committed suicide by hanging herself.

On May 22, Dr. Payal Tadvi, a 23 year old doctor hailing from a tribal community in Jalgaon allegedly committed suicide at her hostel in Mumbai’s prestigious Nair Hospital after being allegedly harassed by three seniors who would use casteist slurs against her.

On March 13, Muthukrishnan Jeevanandham AKA Rajini Krish, was found hanging from a ceiling in a friend’s room in Munirka, a locality that houses hundreds of students besides middle class families, in Delhi.

The numbers

These are just four names. In fact, more than 75,000 students that have taken their lives in the period between 2007 to 2016. India has the highest suicide rate, with over 38,000 students committing suicide since 2015, that’s about six students committing suicide every day due to academic failure, reported Business Insider.

A report by Indiaspend found that student suicides stood at 8,934 in 2015. In 2015, Maharashtra reported most student suicides of any state: 1,230 of 8,934 (14%) nationwide, followed by Tamil Nadu (955) and Chhattisgarh (625). Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu are among India’s most advanced states, and their high rate of suicides could reflect the pressures of economic growth.


(Source – Business Standard)

The National Crime Records Bureau has withheld information about suicides in India since after 2016.

Reasons for the growing numbers

It is common knowledge that one of the most common reasons for the spike in student suicides is the rising academic pressure they are faced with. Surveys and studies conducted by the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) and Christian Medical College (CMC) pointed out that failure in examinations alone caused 2,403 suicides in India in 2014. In the same year 45 students from Kota – India’s hub for IIT aspirants took their lives, the number having gone up 60% from the previous year.

This number soared to 2,646 in 2015 and abated a little, standing at 2,413 in 2016, The Quartz reported.

In 2018, nineteen students took their lives in Telangana after the release of intermediate examination results. Parents alleged discrepancies in evaluation, blaming the state board of Intermediate Education and the Telangana government who had outsourced the evaluation to a firm called Globarena.

Even premier institutes saw a spike in student suicides, with IIT Madras recording its fifth suicide in Fathima Lathif’s death this year.

The Tribune India reported that between 2008 and 2011, IITs, IIMs and National Institutes of Technology (NITs) together reported 26 student suicides; 16 of these at IITs alone at seven at NITs. Eighty percent IIT suicides in the last three years involve most students who are undergraduates (UGs). Causes of stress vary as an IIT Delhi student explains, "The first year is tough as you are getting to absorb the system where professors naturally demand performance from you. That’s the nature of IITs. The stress of scoring is the highest in the first two years. In the final year, peer pressure is at its worst as you face the fiercely competitive campus placements. Here top scorers are major gainers; hence the pressure on low scorers."