With one more student dying by suicide this week in Kota, Rajasthan, the number of students’ suicides in this town famous for its coaching centres for competitive exams has breached the highest of the last few years in only eight months. The town recorded an average of nearly three suicides a month this year. Once an industrial town with small-scale manufacturing units in cloth and engineering, Kota boomed on the ‘coaching economy’ with hundreds of centres admitting students – mostly 15 or 16 years old – to be trained to crack highly competitive exams for premier engineering and medical institutes in the country. Much has been written about the ‘Kota model’ generating revenue worth thousands of crores every year without paying serious attention to the recurring students’ suicides. Instead, the administration has come up with the laughable idea of attaching springs to ceiling fans to prevent suicides by hanging.
However, Kota is the tip of the proverbial iceberg. More than 35 students die by suicide every day on an average, according to the National Crime Records’ Bureau (NCRB); nearly 13,000 students had taken their own lives in 2021, an increase of 4.5 percent over the previous year. Some cases hit headlines, many do not, but the phenomenon is shocking. India is losing some edge in its great demographic dividend when students prefer suicide over completing their education. What is desperately needed, at the national level, is to unpack the fundamental reasons that lead ambitious and hard-working young people to take their own lives and evolve an accessible response mechanism.
Failure in exams, fear of not making it to the topmost colleges, coping with significant disparities in school education levels, problems in adapting to a life outside home, dealing with peer pressure and parental expectations are all stated as triggers for suicides. It should be made mandatory for coaching centres in Kota and elsewhere, colleges and exam centres to have trained mental health practitioners that students can approach in such situations. Some of the enormous profits should be compulsorily ploughed back into a mental health framework for all students. Unless the nation recognizes that the rat race, which puts Indian students on top of the world, also takes lives of their peers the students’ suicides issue could unfortunately worsen.