Rising student suicides in Kota underline need for better prevention mechanism

Social and peer pressure, parental expectations, new study environment, homesickness, and failure to cope with the hectic routine are some of the major causes driving teens to suicide in Kota

Kota: The growing number of suicides by students taking classes at this coaching hub has once again raised a question about the several mechanisms put in place to prevent aspirants from taking such a step.

A 17-year-old JEE aspirant hanged himself here on Friday, taking the number of suspected suicide deaths by coaching students to 18 so far this year and ringing an alarm bell among parents, teachers, hostel owners, and authorities.

The situation has pitched the need to strengthen the mechanism to curb the rising rate of suicides by young aspirants as the efforts already in place for the last 8 years, including deployment of psychologists at coaching institutes, regular recreational activities, weekly offs, fee refund policy, setting up of students’ helpline desk and helpline number seemed to have failed to address the issue.

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Social and peer pressure, parental expectations, new study environment, homesickness, and failure to cope with the hectic routine are some of the major causes driving teens to suicide in Kota, said ASP Chandrasheel Thakur, in-charge of the students’ helpdesk here.

Besides, coaching institutes, eager to earn money, tend to enrol an average or weak student letting them and the parents know of the aspirant’s genuine potential, the ASP added.

“The preparation for cracking entrance exams like IIT-JEE, and NEET-UG is not a child’s play even for sharp aspirants, it requires burning the midnight oil with dedication and commitment,” pointed out Dr Chandrashekhar Sushil, senior professor in the psychiatry department at Kota Government Medical College.

Pointing out that coaching institutes are not responsible for the rising suicides, Sushil said, “The coaching system has been designed to prepare aspirants to work hard enthusiastically to crack the exam and charge fees for the same purpose. But those who can’t work hard or are not prepared yet should avoid joining the course.”

A total of 113 suicide cases by coaching students were reported since 2015, except for 2020-21 when students returned home due to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to data collected from media reports and police.

Suicides by coaching students had gone unnoticed by the media until the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) in its report in May 2015 mentioned that Kota had witnessed a rise in such cases by 61.3 per cent, which mostly included students.

The NCRB report also mentioned that out of the 100 suicide deaths here in 2014, 45 were by students who took the extreme step after failing exams, 26 due to relationship issues and 24 due to family problems.

The NCRB report brought a turmoil for the coaching industry here, prompting the state government to take cognisance, following which guidelines were formulated to curb suicide by students preparing for competitive exams.

The then Kota district collector Ravi Kumar Surpur even wrote a letter in May 2016, urging parents to not burden their wards with their expectations.

Surpur, besides introducing fun activities, deputing psychologists in institutes, weekly off, also authored a 20-page booklet that combined fun reading, graphics, famous quotes, and catchy one-liners from Bollywood movies to boost confidence among coaching students. These efforts brought down significantly the number of suicides by coaching students to 7 in 2017 from 17 in 2016 and 18 in 2015.

The rise in suicide cases resumed after 2017 with 20 such incidents in 2018, 18 in 2019, 15 in 2022 and already 18 so far this year, indicating the apparent apathy on this sensitive issue by government machinery, local administration as well as coaching institutes.

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