After three students preparing for competitive exams died by suicide in one day at Rajasthan’s Kota, the hub of coaching centres that attract thousands of children dreaming of a spot in the country’s best colleges, a leader of the state’s ruling Congress has raised uncomfortable questions for his own government.
Bharat Singh Kundanpur, a Congress MLA from Kota and a former minister in Ashok Gehlot’s government, has alleged in a letter that coaching institutes enjoy political patronage, and therefore are spared any police action when students are driven to suicide.
On Monday, three students, aged 16, 17 and 18, died by suicide in Kota, drawing attention to the extreme pressure and distress suffered by young men and women preparing for medical and engineering entrance exams.
Mr Singh, in his letter to the state government, has demanded an investigation into the role of coaching institutes in the deaths by suicide.
Coaching in Kota has become a lucrative business and in the race for good results, coaching institutes put immense pressure on students, the MLA suggested.
“One reason for these suicides is study stress. But when a student dies by suicide, the police just file an FIR and the coaching institute get away scot-free. The coaching institutes have political links and that also influences the administration as a large number of officials seek postings in Kota just for this reason,” Mr Singh wrote.
This year, 14 students have died by suicide in Kota. The last time there were so many deaths by suicide was in 2018, when 19 students died. In 2016, 17 students died by suicide.
Coaching centres at Kota are notorious for long class hours, assignments, and very competitive internal tests that determine whether a student is promoted to better “batches” with the most sought-after teachers.
A student in 2016 had called for all coaching centres to be shut down, before jumping to her death even after clearing the IIT-JEE exam.
Two of the students who died on Monday where from the same hostel, in rooms next to each other. According to the police, 15 students in the hostel hardly interacted with each other. They embraced loneliness and isolation to put in long hours of studying.
Stunned by the three deaths, the administration has set up an inquiry.
In 2019, the Rajasthan government had set up a committee to suggest legislation to regulate coaching centres and reduce students’ stress. A report of the committee, if at all, was never revealed.