Kota admin’s answer to mental health crisis: Stick to guidelines, install spring-loaded fans
Springs in these ceiling fans are designed to uncoil the moment it detects a load, effectively detaching the fan from the ceiling, and preventing hangings.
The Kota district administration on Thursday ordered all hostels and paying guest (PG) accommodations to install spring-loaded fans in all rooms “to provide students mental support and security”, a move that comes as a response to a string of 21 suicides that have rocked the country’s coaching hub and prompted calls for urgent reforms in the Rajasthan town.
The order, issued by Kota district collector Om Prakash Bunkar, said, “To provide mental support and security to the students studying/living in them and to prevent suicides from increasing among coaching students in Kota city, all hostel/PG operators in the state are directed to install a security spring device in the fans at every room, as discussed in Saturday’s meeting.”
In the meeting on Saturday, the district administration also urged owners of coaching institutes, hostels and PGs to abide with an order issued in December 2022 that mandated a weekly off for students, a maximum class-strength of 80, as well as mandatory psychological evaluations for students and teachers.
Accommodations and institutions that don’t comply with the order will be “seized and the necessary action taken against the owners,” added the notice.
Springs in these ceiling fans are designed to uncoil the moment it detects a load, effectively detaching the fan from the ceiling, and preventing hangings. The fans will also have installed sensors that sound an alarm in the event of an attempted suicide.
Officials said some institutes already have the systems installed and that a similar plan was also floated in 2017.
Experts, however, flayed the order, called it dehumanising and warned such a move will only increase the stigmatisation of students already grappling with fragile mental health.
The notice move comes two days after an 18-year-old student, who was preparing for the Joint Entrance Examination (JEE), died by suicide in Kota. Tuesday’s suicide was the fourth such death in the district this month and the 21st this year – the highest in eight years.
On August 11, a 17-year-old JEE aspirant from Bihar died by suicide in a hostel in Mahaveer Nagar. On August 4, a 17-year-old engineering aspirant from Bihar died by suicide in Mahaveer Nagar. A day earlier on August 3, a NEET aspirant from Uttar Pradesh allegedly died by suicide in Vigyan Nagar. Police said both (last two) the deceased had arrived in Kota four months ago.
According to police data, 15 students died by suicide in Kota in 2022, 18 in 2019, 20 in 2018, seven in 2017, 17 in 2016, and 18 in 2015. No suicide took place in 2020 and 2021.
Around 225,000 students study for entrance exams in Kota, the nerve centre of India’s lucrative and cash-rice test-prep business. Students from across the country swarm to the tiny Rajasthan town every year, attend classes in cramped classrooms and spend months cooped up in tiny rooms, with the hope of securing a rare spot in one of India’s premier engineering or medical schools.
Indeed, most of the 21 suicides this year have been among students who were preparing for either the JEE or National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET).
In 2018, a study by the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) found several students in the town depressed, ill, anxious, and unable to deal with the relentless pressures of coaching.
The same report also found rampant instances of self-harm, substance abuse and bullying.