After 6 Years, IITs Finally Wake Up To The Rising Student Suicides

Following a spate of student suicides at the Indian Institutes of Technology (IIT) in recent months, the premiere engineering colleges are expected to take a series of measures to curb the trend. Student-suicides were included in the IIT Council’s meeting agenda after an IIT Kharagpur student was found hanging in his hostel room last week, according to a report in The Indian Express. The IIT Council is the highest decision-making body of the institutes.

There have been four cases of alleged suicide this year at the IITs, three of which took place at IIT Kharagpur. A 19-year-old IIT Delhi student, who was reportedly depressed, also attempted suicide in March by jumping from the terrace of his hostel.

Sources told The Indian Express that the directors of the 23 IITs will be asked to undertake initiatives apart from those already existing at their respective institutes to curb the trend. These are likely to include measures such as compulsory induction programmes that will teach students ways to cope with stress.

Other measures that the IITs will be urged to take include early identification of vulnerable and academically weak students for referring them to counsellors on campus and sensitisation of teachers to the needs of students with different learning abilities. Directors are also likely to be told to encourage students to pursue extra-curricular activities.

In addition, the IIT administration will be asked to house students from different departments as roommates in hostels to promote healthier peer group interaction.

After a series of suicides and suicide attempts were reported from the IITs in 2010 and 2011, a task force was constituted in September 2011 to suggest remedial measures after studying the causes of those suicides. A sophisticated counselling structure at every institute, faculty-sensitisation and a session for new students focused on teaching them social, communication, and interpersonal skills were some of the initiatives that were recommended by the task force.

The IIT Council officially accepted the recommendations in January 2013. However, 4 years after the decision was taken, the four-level action plan remains ineffective.

The issue has been put on the agenda for the council meeting on Friday after the latest case of an alleged suicide at IIT Kharagpur. On April 21, a fourth-year aerospace engineering student was found hanging in his hostel room. “Let me sleep,” the suicide note written by the deceased Nidhin N had said.

Congress MP KC Venugopal had also written to the HRD Minister Prakash Javadekar seeking his intervention in the matter of suicides at IITs after the death of the student.

The MP told reporters last week that he had been assured by ministry officials that suicide will be probed. “The official assured me that a team headed by a director of the ministry will be appointed to probe the cases of alleged suicides happening in IIT-Kharagpur,” he said.