Kota records an average of three suicides per month; 23 incidents this year: Data
The picturesque city of Kota, once renowned for its rich history and culture, has been marred by a distressing surge in student suicides. The alarming rise in self-inflicted deaths has highlighted the pressing issues of academic and mental stress plaguing the young population, in India. As the community grapples with this heart-wrenching trend, experts and stakeholders are uniting to understand the root causes and implement effective solutions.
Kota, often dubbed the "Coaching Capital of India," draws thousands of students from various corners of the country, all seeking the dream of cracking competitive entrance exams for medical and engineering institutions. While the city has long been celebrated for its high success rates, it is now facing a different reality – a staggering increase in the number of students succumbing to the immense pressure of academic expectations. In recent years, Kota, has become a focal point for students aspiring to secure admissions in prestigious colleges and universities. However, the relentless pursuit of academic excellence has come at a heavy cost, with an increasing number of students succumbing to the intense pressure.
‘Eight months. Twenty-three students. It’s the highest number of deaths in the three decades since Kota has emerged as India’s coaching hub. And the year isn’t over,’ murmurs worried teachers.
The statistics are deeply troubling. According to local authorities, the primary demographic affected by this disturbing trend are students aged 15 to 21, enrolled in various coaching centers. The reasons behind these suicides are multifaceted, ranging from academic stress, peer competition, parental expectations, and a lack of recreational outlets. Experts emphasize that these factors, when combined, create a toxic environment that takes a severe toll on young minds.
‘It’s as if the children are just landing up in the city and dying,’ said Dr Vinod Dariya, professor, Psychiatry Department, Kota Medical College.
On 24 June, Rajasthan’s director general of police (DGP) Umesh Mishra formed a team of 11 officers — to establish a student cell and launched a helpline for SOS calls. Within hours, over 300 SOS calls were received. ‘Food quality is worse in our mess,’ reported one caller. ‘My hostel isn’t returning the security fees, I want to go back to my home,’ said another student. One female student was distraught over “vulgar comments” that someone had posted on her social media profile. Another aspirant just wanted to have a long conversation with someone.The helpline number has become a single-window option for students. There have been more than 300 SOS calls received on the helpline so far, but five calls shook the entire police student cell.
The mesh, the grilles, the safety nets, and the spring devices on ceiling fans are not working. Students are just googling new ways, but the helpline is proving to be a success. In the heart of Talwandi, a coaching neighbourhood in Kota, the Radha Krishna temple bears witness to the vulnerability and hopes of aspirants and their parents. Its walls are scrawled with thousands upon thousands of prayers and wishes.
“God, you know everything. Please give me the strength to live in Kota and focus on my studies…” reads one. “Please God, guide me on the right path. May I never do anything that can hurt my parents,” says another. “This is my last attempt, God. Please grant me my wish so that I can fulfil my parents’ dream.” The walls are painted over every three months by the temple committee to make space for new wishes.
Recently an official statement has been released by administration, “All tests at the coaching centres in Kota have been banned with immediate effect for the next two months in order to “provide mental support and security” to the students.”
“Earlier, we were helping those who screamed for help. Now, we have to find them and help them,” — Om Prakash Bunkar, Kota district magistrate.
Educational reform is also on the agenda, with experts suggesting measures such as limiting study hours, incorporating stress management programs, and promoting extracurricular activities. "The competitive nature of our education system needs a drastic overhaul. We must strike a balance between academic rigor and the well-being of our students," comments Professor Aditya Verma, an education reform advocate.
The gravity of the situation has prompted local authorities and educational institutions to take action. Counseling centers and helplines have been established to provide students with a safe space to discuss their struggles. Additionally, discussions are underway to implement a more balanced curriculum that takes into account the students' mental and emotional needs alongside their academic pursuits.
Experts emphasize the importance of a systemic overhaul in the educational approach. A shift from a singular focus on exam-oriented studies to a more holistic model that promotes mental wellness, emotional resilience, and personal growth is crucial. Integrating stress-reduction techniques, promoting open communication, and fostering a supportive learning environment are steps in the right direction.
As the city grapples with the devastating loss of young lives, Kota stands at a crossroads. The path ahead requires collective efforts from parents, educators, policymakers, and society at large to ensure that the pursuit of knowledge does not come at the cost of precious lives. The urgent call for action reverberates through the city, serving as a reminder that the well-being of its students should always be the top priority.
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