Suicide-proof fans and hooters cannot end coaching hub Kota’s problem | opinion | Hindustan Times
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Suicide-proof fans and hooters cannot end coaching hub Kota’s problem

The Kota hostel association is obviously keen to save lives (and keep their flourishing business intact, maybe not in that order), but isn’t it incredibly sad to think that a room --- a home away from home for a young adult struggling to fulfil her dreams --- has an built-in mechanism (suicide-proof fans) that would actually remind them in a roundabout way that there is no place for ‘failure’ in our society and suicide is actually an option. That a spring-fan is the only thing standing between them and death.

opinion Updated: Apr 05, 2017 07:22 IST
KumKum Dasgupta
Kota, once part of the Rajput kingdom of Bundi, developed into a coaching hub in the late 1980s and over the years acquired a reputation of having a “high success rate”. The town has about 40-plus big coaching centres with a thriving Rs 2,000 crore industry
Kota, once part of the Rajput kingdom of Bundi, developed into a coaching hub in the late 1980s and over the years acquired a reputation of having a “high success rate”. The town has about 40-plus big coaching centres with a thriving Rs 2,000 crore industry(HT)

I was scrolling through my Twitter timeline on Thursday night, when I came across this bizarre piece of news: A hostel association in Rajasthan’s Kota town, where 1.75 lakh students go every year for coaching to pass the insanely competitive engineering and medical entrance examinations, is installing ‘suicide-proof’ fans in the rooms of students to deter them from taking their lives. The city has been in the spotlight for the last few years after several students committed suicides due to the enormous pressure they go through while preparing for the entrance exams. The 2014 National Crime Record Bureau said at least 45 students committed suicide in Kota due to fear of failure in exams. Last year, the number was 17.

The spring-fitted ceiling fans, one of the office-bearers of the association explained meticulously to Hindustan Times, would not only come down if a student tries to hang himself from the fans but they would also have a sensor to sound a hooter to intimate authorities of any suicide attempt.

The city, once part of the Rajput kingdom of Bundi, developed into a coaching hub in the late 1980s and over the years acquired a reputation of having a “high success rate”. The town has about 40-plus big coaching centres with a thriving Rs 2,000 crore industry. The students are the backbone of the city’s economy: Auto-rickshaw drivers, security guards, stationary shop owners and home owners, among others, dependent on the students.

The Kota hostel association is obviously keen to save lives (and keep their flourishing business intact, maybe not in that order), but isn’t it incredibly sad to think that a room --- a home away from home for a young adult struggling to fulfil her dreams --- has n built-in mechanism (suicide-proof fans) that will remind them in a roundabout way that there is no place for ‘failure’ in our society and suicide is actually an option. That a spring-fan is the only thing standing between them and death.

Imagine this: You take your child to Kota for enrolment in one of the institutes. While showing one of the hostel rooms for your child, the manager tells you that along with basic amenities, the room is suicide-proof too. Doesn’t it sound frightening? There are already biometric machines in place to monitor students’ movements and soon there will be CCTV security cameras. We might as well rename this dystopian city, Fort Kota.

While I was searching for information on Kota’s growth as a coaching centre, I came across a comment by someone who has gone through the Kota wringer – and survived. “All of these coaching centers transform the students into machines...kill the joy of thinking...curtail creativity... (sic),” he wrote. Lucky man, I thought, he got out in the nick of time.

But there are so many others who have succumbed. Last year a 16-year-old boy from Bihar, Aman Kumar Gupta, jumped into the Chambal river. In the 11.4-minute long video clip shot on his mobile phone, Aman said he wanted to go ahead in life but could not keep up with the pressure. Would someone like Aman be deterred by spring fans, biometric machines and CCTV security cameras? No. They need professional help to teach them how to negotiate the pressure that these young adults are put through, sometimes by their own families. No use only blaming coaching centres; they thrive thanks to our warped education system.

However, these `innovative’ ideas such as spring fans aside, some positive steps are also being taken to help students. The state government has hired Tata Institute of Social Sciences to study the causes that lead to stress and depression among the students. After receiving the report, guidelines and legal provisions for the coaching institutes will be prepared. I just hope that all this is done quickly before we hear of more deaths.

But these measures will be not enough. At IITs, where many of these students end up or at least aspire to be, faculty members feel that a lack of regulation and flaws in primary schooling are responsible for the rising number of coaching centres. India has few very few islands of excellence and it is not surprising then that many want to be there, even if that means burning the midnight oil under the benign gaze of suicide-proof fans and prying CCTV cameras.

kumkum.dasgupta@hindustantimes.com

@kumkumdasgupta