LSR student had flagged lack of devices, poor internet

The student had returned to her hometown in Telangana, following the Covid-19 lockdown in March and had been facing difficulty in pursuing her online classes. On November 3, she died by suicide and left behind a note, saying she did not want to be a burden on her family.
The death of a 19-year-old undergraduate student at Delhi University’s Lady Shri Ram College has sparked outrage by political leaders, civil society activists, and students who have raised questions over the feasibility of online education.(Hindustan Times)
The death of a 19-year-old undergraduate student at Delhi University’s Lady Shri Ram College has sparked outrage by political leaders, civil society activists, and students who have raised questions over the feasibility of online education.(Hindustan Times)
Updated on Nov 10, 2020 02:52 AM IST
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Hindustan Times, New Delhi/ Hyderabad | ByKainat Sarfaraz and Srinivasa Rao Apparasu

Less than two months before she died by suicide, a 19-year-old undergraduate student at Delhi University’s Lady Shri Ram College had said in a digital survey by the college students that she was unable to regularly attend her online classes due to lack of devices and a poor internet connection and that it was affecting her mental and physical health.

The student had returned to her hometown in Telangana, following the Covid-19 lockdown in March and had been facing difficulty in pursuing her online classes. On November 3, she died by suicide and left behind a note, saying she did not want to be a burden on her family.

Her death has sparked outrage by political leaders, civil society activists, and students who have raised questions over the feasibility of online education. Congress president Rahul Gandhi expressed shock over the suicide. He accused the Central government of destroying countless homes due to the ‘deliberate’ lockdown and demonetisation.

“My condolences to the family members of the girl in this very sad moment. The BJP government destroyed countless homes due to the deliberate demonetisation and countrywide lockdown. This is the truth,” Gandhi tweeted.

Unnimaya P, general secretary of the LSR students union, said they had submitted the results of the survey, highlighting issued being faced by the students in pursuing studies online. “We also demanded that attendance should not be made compulsory and that allowances should be provided for internet packages to help students from marginalized backgrounds. But there was no response from the administration.”

Several departments of the college participated in an online boycott of classes on Monday as a mark of protest and the students’ union has given the call for a boycott on Tuesday as well. Over 700 former students have also issued a statement condemning the incident.

The parents of the dead student said that due to financial distress, they were unable to provide her a laptop which affected her studies despite “being a bright student”. In a press conference on Monday, her mother, who works as a tailor from home, said, “She was stressed over the being asked to vacate the college hostel. She was also worried that she would be mocked if she dropped out of the course because people looked up to her as she was the first from their social circle who had made it to a reputed institution.”

The family also said that they had mortgaged their house and gold ornaments for Rs 2 lakh for her education and help her fulfil her dreams of becoming an Indian Administrative Services officer and study in Delhi.

The college administration had asked all second-year students to vacate the hostel by October-end, which was later extended to November 10. LSR college on Monday said that the student had not approached the college for help and that the hostel guidelines had been specified during the time of admission.

The college administration explained that that the hostel policies were changed to accommodate Other Backward Category and Economically Weaker Section category reservation.

LSR Principal Suman Sharma said, “The student concerned never approached the college or her department of Mathematics, the scholarship committee for any financial help. Her fee was reimbursed and the college had given freeship amount of Rs 12,000, which was deposited in her account on April 24.”

Her mother, however, denied receiving the amount.

In a brief suicide note purportedly written by the student in Telugu, which was seen by HT, the girl said her education had become a burden on her family. “I cannot live without my studies. I have been thinking about it for a long time and I felt my death is the only solution to my problem. Nobody is the reason for my death. I should have got INSPIRE scholarship for at least one year,” the note read.

The college, meanwhile, said on Monday, that they did not know about the INSPIRE scholarship. “There was no intimation by the student that she was a recipient of INSPIRE scholarship sponsored by the Department of Science and Technology, Government of India. This college, therefore, is not in a position to state anything on this matter. In any case, the role of the college in such cases is limited to certify bonafides only,” it said.

Under the INSPIRE scholarship for Higher Education (SHE) scheme, 12,000 scholarships each valued at Rs 80,000 are announced annually for students pursuing undergraduate and postgraduate level courses in Basic and Natural Sciences.

Ashutosh Sharma, secretary at the Department of Science and Technology, said there has been absolutely no delay in disbursal of funds for any student. “The process of disbursal of these scholarships includes sending of provisional fellowship letters in August, which were sent, and students have until December to upload documents like bank account number, marksheets, and bonafide certificate. Once the documents are received, the fellowship for entire year is released. The concerned student had not submitted these documents.”

Sharma explained that while students apply for fellowship in first year of college, the amount is released next year for both the years together if they satisfy the required criteria of securing 60% marks in the first year and remain enrolled in the college to pursue science.

The student’s family now hopes for some financial assistance to ensure that their younger daughter, who had to discontinue her education, would be able to pursue her studies. The college on Monday said it had initiated an assistance scheme to help the family. “We have initiated efforts to assist the family of the deceased student financially with a voluntary contribution by the LSR faculty,” the college said.

Meanwhile, students’ groups – including Students’ Federation of India (SFI), National Students’ Union of India (NSUI), and All India Students Association (AISA) – protested at different spots across the capital demanding justice for the dead student.

Deputy commissioner of police (New Delhi) Eish Singhal said at least 20 NSUI members staged a protest outside the residence of the Union education minister Ramesh Pokhriyal. “Seven protesters were detained. A case under section 188 of IPC and Section 3 of Epidemic Diseases Act 1897 and 51(b) of Disaster Management Act 2005 has been registered against the protestors at the Tughlaq Road police station,” he said.

DCP (Southeast) RP Meena said, “We have not received any complaint regarding the incident (suicide). There is no investigation being done. Also, the Telangana Police have also not approached us so far in connection with the matter.”

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Wednesday, December 08, 2021