By Tanima Banerjee:
Recently, I came across a news report which was more shocking than merely informative. It said that a second year Mechanical student, Pradeep Kumar was shot dead at his College gate allegedly by two of his batch mates. The reason for the killing is even more alarming. Police enquiries have revealed that the accused students had killed Pradeep because he was a class topper, and they were hostile to him because he belonged to a poor family. They used to pass lewd remarks at him and harassed him at every possible opportunity, so much so that they ended up killing him. It is evident they didn’t take the fact very well that he was topping the class despite being from a lower caste. Apparently this was his fault for which he had to pay with his life.
We call our country a progressing nation. But what one must look at is the dark underbelly of this progress. We are developing ostensibly in every arena, be it technology, media, health, industry, infrastructure. But examples of such heinous crimes committed by students who uphold the backbone of our country’s future suggest that there is an ugly flipside to this notion of progress. The age demands everyone to be right on top. To be second has no value. Children are constantly pressurized to excel in everything, be it studies, sports or cultural activity. By the time, a student opts for further studies; he or she is expected to study in the top colleges, which have sky-rocketing cut-off percentages. In fact most of the students don’t even have the freedom to opt for a subject of their choice, and forced to study money spinning subjects like engineering, commerce and MBA. Throughout their student life, a child is constantly pressurized to get high marks; else they are rendered worthless by their parents, fellow students and the society at large. The drive to be on top has taken such a violent and passionate turn that it has dominated our ideology over anything else. Our over-reaching ambitions dominate over our social mores, so much so that we tend to ignore basic human and social values. The competitive spirit has taken negative shades, and cases like students killing each other because they are scoring better than them shows that our selfish desires to be better than others has overtaken our value system. What seems to matter now is to be high scorers than basic human beings! This is the basic problem of the generation we live in. Social and moral degradation is an offshoot of this dark competitive spirit which has invaded the mentality of every student. So much is this forceful drive to see oneself on top that the student becomes intolerant of any other student who might be performing better than him. They cannot digest the fact that someone else might be enjoying a position that he sees himself to be deserving of.
A similar case happened in Kolkata in July, 2011 when a student beat a classmate to death because he allegedly envied his classmate’s stellar performance in the Class X examinations. What is interesting is that the killer was a boy who barely passed his examinations, while the victim was a high scorer. Can one just look at these cases as merely cases of personal rivalry, or is there a much deeper psychological and social problem that we are all neglecting? Clearly one can’t ignore the parental and societal pressures on today’s student, for whom anything less than high marks are totally unacceptable. When such dangerous murders are committed against fellow students, not just the student killer but the whole institute of education, parenthood and society is the actual culprit who have conditioned the child’s mind in such a way. A student falling into depression and getting frustrated is a common thing we come across nowadays. Students on not doing well in studies, tend to direct this frustration on fellow classmates, unable to vent it out on the system. A closer examination of these kinds of situations and the crimes it is leading to demonstrates that students are the ones who are becoming victims of the kind of burden that they are subjected to. And this results in directing them to committing unforgivable crimes against their own classmates.
In order to stop such horrible crimes by students over trivialities like marks and petty jealousies in the future, the first initiative must be taken by the parents. The parents should guide their wards in the right direction. They must allow their children the liberty to make their own choice of life and career, and be supportive instead of burdening them with aspirations beyond their capabilities. They must encourage them to pursue what they like, and where their true talent lies. The parents need to understand and also make the student understand at the basic level that getting high marks in examinations is not the sole end of life. Institutions like schools and colleges need to redefine their aims of education. They should educate the students in moral and social ethics and emphasize on being better human beings than getting top scores. It’s extremely important to create that comfort level between student and parent/ teacher where students can talk and discuss with them regarding any kind of issues they might be facing. They must be encouraged to learn and know, and not limit their student life to marks and examinations. Movies like 3 Idiots and Taare Zameen Par have brought such issues in the forefront. Though reality is much darker than the movies, where the topper might just be killed by the classmate for getting better marks, or be mentally tortured by classmates, yet media should strive to create a positive impact on the students and parents. Students must be encouraged to believe in themselves and not be compared to anyone who might be getting better scores. There is a need to ensure that unhealthy competition should not be allowed to permeate our minds and obscure our sense of social and moral responsibility. After all, can marks be more valuable than life itself!