Student suicides in Rajasthan’s Kota drop by 70%
Sustained efforts by a panic-stricken Rajasthan administration has saved lives of many students.Updated: Nov 10, 2017 13:13 IST
Student suicides in Rajasthan’s Kota dropped by 70% in the first 10 months of this year, data shows, the fall attributed to a raft of measures announced last year following a string of deaths and reports of mounting stress in India’s coaching hub.
Four students died between January and October 2017, compared to 14 in the same period last year, police data showed. No student died between July and October 2017, the last suicide reported in June of a 17-year-old NEET aspirant from Bihar.
In 2015, 12 students had died in the first 10 months of the year.
Kota sees around 150,000 students enrol every year in any of the 40-odd institutes to train for professional engineering and medical entrance examinations.
But a spate of suicides, about 60 in the past five years, rocked the city and forced the administration to issue new guidelines aimed at curbing stress levels among teenage aspirants.
The administration made weekly offs and recreation days compulsory, shuffled test schedules and ensured more counsellors were engaged by institutes. These steps, experts said, were instrumental in calming the nerves of students, who often came from small towns and dealt with rising expectations of parents and institutes.
“Certainly, the interventions taken by the Kota administration in 2016 proved to be a milestone in the efforts to curb student suicides in Kota,” said Sujata Sriram, professor, School of Human Ecology, at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences that was hired by the state government to study the reasons for stress levels in Kota.
Kota additional district magistrate Sunita Daga credited “awareness among parents, students and all stakeholders” for reducing suicides.
The institutes said they had ramped up the number of counsellors and were more proactive in monitoring stressed students while asking parents to reduce pressure on their children.
“We have reduced batch reshuffling that used to create pressure as it linked batches to performance in tests”, said Naveen Maheshwari, director of Allen Coaching Insitute.
Manoj Kumar Sharma, executive director of Resonance Eduventures Private Limited said changes in the examination pattern had helped. “Now we give a day break before the major test to provide students enough time to prepare for tests.”
But a student, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said recreational facilities were still not adequate and meditation and yoga were optional. There has also been an increase in the number of parents who now live with their children in Kota.
An NGO-run helpline restarted in March 2016 also played a crucial role, said experts. “The helpline received 1,464 calls from students since March 2016 for problems related to suicidal tendencies, study problem, depression, emotional issues and others which were effectively tackled,” said ML Agarwal, psychiatrist and coordinator of the HOPE helpline.
But experts rued that huge strides needed to be made to wipe out student suicides. “Kota coaching stakeholders have to work hard on increasing recreational activities for students, conducting screening and aptitude tests prior admissions, firmly implementing batch reshuffling, reducing student strength in classrooms and facilitating counselling facilities, said Sriram.