Rajasthan: After spring-loaded fans in rooms, "anti-suicide nets" are now being installed in balconies and lobbies of hostels in coaching hub Kota to prevent students from taking any extreme step.
Hostel owners said such steps to make their premises "suicide proof" are crucial to avoid tragic incidents.
Over two lakh students move to Kota annually to prepare for competitive exams such as the Joint Entrance Exam (JEE) for engineering and the National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test (NEET) for admission to medical colleges.
According to authorities, 20 students preparing for competitive exams in Kota have ended their lives so far in 2023 -- the highest for any year. Last year, the figure was 15.
"We have installed huge nets in all lobbies and balconies to block students in case they jump from higher floors. These nets can hold weight up to 150 kg and also ensure that students do not get injured," said Vinod Gautam, owner of Vishalakshi Residency, a girls' hostel with over 200 rooms spread across eight floors.
He hoped spring coils in fans and these nets will help prevent any untoward incident.
"So far, no suicide has taken place in my hostel, but we have to be ready. Parents often panic, and such measures will give them confidence as they are far away from their children," he said.
Mr Gautam said he suspected that students might find a way out.
"So we are installing nets made of steel wires, which are not largely visible but are very strong, and it is not possible to cut or remove them without professional equipment. The installation of these nets is currently in progress. Such an arrangement is used in various multi-story buildings in Mumbai. It is a costly affair but saving lives is more important," he said.
Another hostel owner, who did not wish to be identified, said iron nets have been installed in all lobbies, windows, and balconies.
"Most students attempt suicide either by hanging themselves from a fan or by jumping from higher floors or the terrace. We have installed measures for both to avoid any tragedy. It is bad for business too because once a suicide happens, students in that hostel start shifting to other hostels or PGs," he said.
The coaching hub is back in focus after four Kota students died by suicide this month.
Asked about whether such measures in hostels and PG accommodations can help address the larger issue -- stress in students, Deputy Commissioner OP Bunkar told PTI, "We are taking several measures, right from routine psychological tests of children to effective communication with parents." "However, measures like spring-loaded fans can be helpful in preventing any attempt being made in the heat of the moment by a student. Once that attempt is unsuccessful, students can be counselled and other measures can be implemented too," he said.
The "anti-suicide measure" of installing spring coils in fans was discussed on August 12 at a meeting between Kota officials and other stakeholders. Later, Mr Bunkar had issued the directions, demanding strict compliance.
This is how the device works: If an object weighing more than 20 kg is hung from the fan, the spring attached to it expands, making it impossible for someone to die by suicide by this method. Simultaneously, a siren goes off.
Back in 2017, the Kota Hostels Association had discussed the measure but it did not gain popularity with the estimated 25,000 paying guest facilities in the city, where thousands of students from across the country enrol at coaching centres every year to prepare for competitive exams.