Jaipur: After 20 suicides, mostly by hanging, were reported from Rajasthan's entrance exam hub Kota, allegedly under pressure to crack NEET and JEE, the state government is installing spring-loaded fans in hostel rooms, and has formed a committee to combat such incidents.
Chief Minister Ashok Gelot late Friday evening held a meeting with hostel directors, coaching directors, parents and guardians of the competitive examination aspirants to find out why youths are taking the extreme step and how to tackle the issue.
During the two-hour-long meeting, the chief minister directed secretary (education) to form a committee, including coaching directors, parents and guardians of students, which will submit a report within 15 days on suggestions to check suicides.
State Education Minister B. D. Kalla suggested that average students should be encouraged to play cricket and football instead of "pressurising" him/her to crack the competitive exams.
Chairing the meeting, Gehlot said, "Students take admission in Kota coaching centres at the age of 15 and have stay far away from their parents. Hence, coaching directors have the responsibility to provide them with a home-like atmosphere. The aspirants should be allowed to go home on festivals. If students study under pressure, suicidal cases will increase."
"If student is weak, then he/she should be advised to play good cricket or football. Look at Virat Kohli, he is earning more than doctors and engineers. Coaching centres should be transformed into happiness centres and students should be made to learn how to become successful after failures," said Kalla.
"Now trend is changing as IITians are also doing political surveys for politicians and are seen engaged in their poll campaigns," said Gehlot.
In the meeting, Minister of State Zahida Khan said that the coaching institutes in Kota should not become just "money-earning machines".
"Children should be tested before admission to know whether they are capable of preparing for a competitive exam or not. If not, then the parents should be told about it," Khan said.
Khan suggested that music and yoga classes can be organised in the hostels so that there is no pressure on the students' mind.
Meanwhile, the reports of Kota administration installing spring loaded fans in 3200 hostels are garnering critics' attention who said that such acts are inefficient to check suicides.
Priti Sridhar, CEO, Mariwala Health Initiative says, "Installing spring fans will not solve the issue. We need to understand the underlying stress of these students."
"This stress comes from society, in which Class 12 examinations and competitive examinations are considered parameters of a person's success in life. This stress could be multiplied by the fact that parents may have high expectations from their children, which also then gets compounded for a young person when they move from their home to a new place and a city where the food would be different and aorund people who speak a different language. Students of the coaching institutes which put pressure on them to study for long hours and those who don't have any or limited support system or don't have family, friends or known persons with whom they can converse, experience stress."
"Therefore, I think it is important that the Rajasthan government should find out a solution, which is in line with the National Suicide Prevention Strategy that talks about multiple departments coming together to address the issue," Sridhar said.
Meanwhile, the work to install spring loaded fans in hostels is going at a fast pace as district collector OP Bunkar has directed in this context.
Hostel association president Naveen Mittal said that there are 3,500 hostels in Kota and spring devices have been installed in around 3,200 hostels till date.
In such hostels, fans will come down if they are loaded with more than 40 kg of weight. It also comes with an alarm system which creates noise when someone tries to hang.
In the recent incident, an 18-year-old student was found hanging at a rented accommodation in Kota on Tuesday. While this is the fourth student suicide reported in Kota this month, three other coaching students, including two IIT-JEE aspirants and one NEET-UG aspirant, died earlier this month.
Last year, at least 15 cases of students's suicide were reported in the coaching hub.
The Kota administration has shared concerns over the rising number of student suicides in the district. Following the guidelines issued by the Rajasthan High Court over the rising deaths, the district administration had called for psychological evaluation of students in Kota and necessary counselling to be provided to them.
Meanwhile, Priti says, "I think there is a need for us to clearly move from a reactionary approach to preventive approach."