Expressing “serious concern” over the findings of an investigation by The Indian Express on student suicides in Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalayas, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) Tuesday issued notice to the school education secretary in the HRD Ministry seeking a response within six weeks.
On December 24, 2018, The Indian Express reported that the central government’s residential schools for talented rural children witnessed 49 student suicides from 2013 to 2017, including that of 25 Dalit and tribal students. The investigation also revealed that there are no trained counsellors on campus, and that it’s largely left to “overburdened” teachers to look after the welfare of students.
Taking suo motu cognizance of the findings, the NHRC, headed by former Chief Justice of India H L Dattu, directed the ministry to submit its response on three aspects: whether trained counsellors are available on campus; if there is dedicated staff to ensure students are not left alone in their rooms; and whether students have access to emergency assistance through counselling over telephone and a suicide hotline service.
“The Commission has observed that the contents of the media report, if true, cannot be ignored or overlooked as this reported pattern of suicides by so many students in JNVs might still increase, if not checked in time with appropriate measures… The proportion of suicides of students from the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe communities is also a matter of concern for a society, which aspires for an inclusive growth,” the NHRC said.
Citing the findings of The Indian Express investigation, NHRC said a total of 2.53 lakh students in the age group of nine to 19 were enrolled across roughly 600 JNVs for the year 2017 and that in the same year, the number of suicides touched 14.