Two adolescents preparing for medical college entrance exams in Kota died by suicide, raising the total number of student suicides this year in the city to 23.
On Sunday, two teenagers who were preparing for entrance exams in medical colleges in Kota died by suicide, adding to the total of 23 student suicides in the city this year, which is considered a hub for test preparation centers across the country.
This number is the highest since 2015, when authorities first began to compile records of suicides among college candidates. Six of these deaths occurred in August alone. Following these incidents, the administration swiftly issued an order on Sunday to suspend any test in coaching institutions for two months.
The first death on Sunday was a 16-year-old boy from Maharashtra, who jumped from the sixth floor of his coaching institute in the Science Nagar area after taking a prescribed weekly test in the afternoon. The Circle Officer, Dharm Veer Singh, said, “After taking the designated weekly test in the afternoon, the boy took this extreme step at his coaching institute.”
राजस्थान : कोटा में छात्रों के PG में स्प्रिंग-लोडेड पंखे लगाए जा रहे हैं
— News24 (@news24tvchannel) August 18, 2023
Six hours later, an 18-year-old from Bihar was found hanging from a ceiling fan in his room. “The boy from Bihar was residing in a rented apartment in the Kundai area with his sister and cousin. Despite repeated knocking, when he didn’t respond, his siblings broke the door and found him hanging from the ceiling fan in his room,” said SHO Ganga Sahay Sharma of the Kundai police station. He was taken to the hospital but was declared dead later.
Both students were preparing for the National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET) or Joint Entrance Examination (JEE) for admission to undergraduate medical colleges, which utilize a benchmark score for admission.
According to an official familiar with the matter, “There were no suicide notes in either case, and the preliminary reports did not suggest any change in behavior.”
Later on Sunday, the district collector, Om Prakash Bunkar, issued an order instructing “coaching centers not to conduct any exam for the next two months.”
“People should be more vigilant, especially parents and families. Despite living with their families, no change was observed in their behavior. It is more difficult for us to identify those students who are suffering from depression or showing suicidal tendencies. Nevertheless, the district administration is making several efforts to bring about a change in the scenario,” Bunkar said.
Certainly, those who are stressed or suffering from mental illnesses tend to keep it hidden. In Kota, the administration has taken complex measures to address this issue, including the installation of spring-loaded rods for ceiling fans in student hostels, which is a direct attempt to prevent deaths by hanging.
According to district officials, Kota is a hub for India’s test preparation business, estimated to be worth ₹10,000 crore annually. Students from all over the country flock here after completing the tenth grade, enrolling in residential coaching institutions. Many also attend regular schools, many of which are primarily aimed at certification.
Students only participate in classroom sessions in test prep institutions, which prepare them for their twelfth-grade exams and, importantly, for entrance exams like NEET and JEE. Some find this environment stressful, especially because they are away from their families.
Based on police statistics, there were 15 suicides in Kota in 2022, 18 in 2019, 20 in 2018, 7 in 2017, 17 in 2016, and 18 in 2015. There were no suicides in 2020 and 2021.
On August 18, Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot expressed concern over the rise in suicides among students preparing for competitive exams in Kota and directed officials to form a committee to suggest measures to address such cases.
“In such cases (suicides), there should not be an increase… The time for reform has come. We cannot witness young students committing suicide… not even one death should occur,” he said.