26 deaths in 2023: Kota continues to kill NEET, JEE aspirants

On Monday Night, a 20-year-old NEET aspirant from West Bengal died by suicide in Rajasthan’s Kota. This is the 26th such case recorded this year alone, a number overwhelming even for India’s coaching capital infamous for such tragic incidents.

The incident on September 28 was the 26th recorded suicide case of JEE, NEET aspirants in Rajasthan’s Kota (Representative image)

The 26 deaths is the highest number of suicides in Kota in a calendar year since 2015.

Fifteen aspirants of competitive exams had died by suicide in Kota in 2022, 18 in 2019, 20 in 2018, seven in 2017, 17 in 2016, and 18 in 2015.

Analysis done by Hindustan Times shows that more than half of them who decided to end their lives were younger than 18 years and 12 of them died within six months of arriving in the city.

-Government’s efforts-

In an attempt to curb such tragedies, the Rajasthan government in August 2023 formed a 15-member committee headed by higher education secretary Bhawani Singh Detha and based on their recommendations, it notified a slew of preventive measures.

It included mandatory screening tests, forming sections in alphabetical order of names instead of their ranks/performances, monitoring centres in two coaching hubs of the state Kota and Sikar, among others.

Notably, the incident on Monday was the first since the state government in Rajasthan issued these guidelines on September 28. The previous case was recorded on September 19, when a 16-year old student from Uttar Pradesh died by consuming poison.

-Why Kota kills?-

Fierce competition, packed schedule, extreme pressure, parents’ expectations and homesickness often leave students alone with no one to talk to and share feelings with, students in Kota told PTI in interviews.

“It is like running on a treadmill. You only have two options either to get down or keep running. You cannot take a break, cannot slow down but only keep running,” a Joint Entrance Examination (JEE) aspirant from Odisha had said.

Children land in Kota at a very young age – as young as 15 – and have to adapt to a highly competitive environment, sometimes with the ones who are more skilled.

Experts also say that the coaching centre’s way of celebrating toppers creates unnecessary pressure on students who fail to ace these entrance exams.

-“Parents must recognise their children’s interest”-

Nitin Viijay, Founder and CEO, Motion Education Pvt. Ltd. based in Kota, says it is the responsibility of parents to evaluate if their children are interested in studying engineering or medicine before sending them to prepare for entrance tests.

“At the same time, they should focus on preparing the child to take the pressure that is required to crack competitive exams. Understanding that there has been no change in the exam curriculum or teaching style in preparation for years, we should encourage self-belief in students to help them build confidence to manage the pressure more responsibly. In fact, over the years, there has been a lot of enhancement in the education system, where technology is easing the learning process for students and allowing for personalized education to give a complete support system to aspirants,” he said.

“…we need to make them understand that facing failure in the process is a part of the journey, and they should not be disheartened by it,” he added.

The Supreme Court of India had a similar observation.

After hearing a PIL earlier this month, which blamed coaching institutes for driving students to the point of death, the top court said that high expectations of arents are driving children to end their lives.

“Suicides are not happening because of the coaching institutes. They happen because the children cannot meet the expectations of their parents. The number of deaths could be much higher,” the Supreme Court bench said.

Educators also suggest a greater emphasis on mental well-being of students, which include a

holistic approach to learning and an atmosphere where students feel emotionally supported and empowered.

“Special preventive measures should include regular counseling sessions, stress management programs, and encouraging open dialogues about mental health. Our duty as educators extends beyond textbooks; it encompasses nurturing resilient, confident, and emotionally aware individuals who can weather life’s storms. As a educationist we should be more vigilant guardians of our students’ mental health, ensuring that every young mind is equipped with the tools to face challenges with courage and seek help when needed,” says Beas Dev Ralhan, CEO, Next Education.

(With inputs from PTI, HT Correspondent)

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