Hyderabad: In a tragic incident, a second-year student of Delhi’s Lady Shri Ram (LSR) College for Women died by suicide at her home on the outskirts of Hyderabad last week. The 19-year-old Aishwarya, pursuing Mathematics honors at the prestigious institute, cited financial troubles in a purported suicide note.
For a working-class family that was struggling to come to terms with the lockdown-induced financial strain, Aishwarya felt her education was placing an undue financial burden. “My family is incurring a lot of expenses because of me. I am a burden on them. My education is a burden. I can’t live without education,” she wrote in her suicide note.
Aishwarya’s parents — Srinivas Reddy and Sumathi — had mortgaged their small house for Rs 2 lakh and also pledged their jewelry, besides sacrificing their younger daughter’s education, to support her education. While Srinivas Reddy is a small-time mechanic, Sumathi is a tailor. “I am still repaying the loan,” said Reddy, who opened his own repair shop this March. The shop was shut down in a month, due to the sudden lockdown announcement.
“My daughter had returned home in February after the college closed. In October, she asked if I could buy her a laptop as online classes had started and she was finding it difficult to attend them on her phone. She said even a used laptop would do. I told her to wait for a few days. She did not ask again. A few days later, she mentioned that the scholarship amount she was supposed to receive was delayed,” Reddy said to a local television channel.
Aishwarya was a brilliant student. In 2019, she scored 98.5 percent in the Telangana Intermediate examinations. She was also the school topper in the Class X state board exam. It was her academic record that won her a chance to study a Bachelor of Science (Honors) in Mathematics at LSR, one of the best colleges in the country.
She was also a recipient of the INSPIRE scholarship granted by the Ministry of Science and Technology. However, her suicide note read: “Ensure INSPIRE scholarship is given at least for one year,” stating delay.
In the purported suicide note, Aishwarya wrote: “Forgive me. I am not a good daughter.”
Then in October, Aishwarya was notified by LSR that she would be losing hostel accommodation as part of the college’s new policy that reserves hostel accommodation only for first-year students. It was her last straw. She was worried about her stay outside the hostel in Delhi, considering the rent and other costs. “We did not have money even to buy a train ticket to Delhi,” her mother said.
As a statement shared by the LSR student body says, “It is no longer enough to sit back and blame larger structures. The authorities of Lady Shri Ram College must realize that they are a part of producing the said structure and thus must play an active part in providing transformative solutions.”
“It is clear that she was failed by her institution as well as a government which has used this pandemic to throw students like her under the bus,” the statement continues.
The Students’ Federation of India (Delhi) too demanded that the LSR administration must take responsibility for Aishwarya’s suicide. “NOT A SUICIDE, BUT AN INSTITUTIONAL MURDER,” the students’ organization tweeted. #JusticeForAishwarya was seen trending on Twitter on Monday morning.