The suicide of an engineering student in the hostel room in IIT-Madras on Monday was the second such incident in less than a month, raising serious questions about the pressures on IIT-M students to succeed.
According to the police, Rahul G Prasad, 22, a B.Tech student from Kerala’s Kollam district, hanged himself in his room in Ganga Hostel on the campus. No suicide note was found. On September 21, N Nagendra Kumar Reddy, another student who committed suicide, had also left behind no clues to the reasons for his suicide. There have been about 10 suicides in the last five years at IIT-M.
Among the reasons being floated for Rahul’s suicide are a failed relationship and anxiety about his placement. His teachers says he was a bright student although he had a few papers to clear. His classmates said he failed to appear for a periodical test held on Monday. “Since there was no suicide note, we are now looking at various angles including a reported relationship that he had,” said the police officer.
If anything, the suicides highlight the stress levels for students at the institute. According to some professors its changing character with an increase in the number of students has led to an alienation of those who come from weaker backgrounds as the main reason for the suicides. “A section of students who are highly competitive and an increasingly ambitious faculty also create a tough academic environment here,’’ said a researcher.
An MA student said the change in the character of students and the entry of first generation learners also create conflict. “Even professors who would stand for rights and equality conveniently avoid Dalit students or those who come from poor backgrounds as a delay in completing a thesis or projects would affect their careers too. So many teachers don’t think it is useful to help these students; instead they prefer the best ones. All these realities strengthen the alienation of a section of students who eventually fail to convince themselves about their goals and purpose of life,” he said.
Mitr, earlier known as Guidance and Counselling Unit (GCU), a body comprising faculty and senior students is there to provide guidance and counselling “for students who are facing any curriculum-related or or personal problems”. Director Bhaskar Ramamurthi has denied criticism that Mitr is not being run properly: “it is playing a significant role and addressing several issues,” he said. He added that IIT-M has an effective suicide prevention mechanism and the campus hospital also has an advanced system offering psychiatric help.
A day after the suicide, IIT-Madras was silent on the death of the student. Administrators and departments were busy with arrangements for Saraswati Puja. The administration of IIT-Madras was silent on the news of suicide.
“We all learnt about the suicide from the media although we have multi-level communication systems and mail services. The suicide of a student remains a shame for many in this institution as we are all supposed to run after bigger dreams and career,” said a head of department.
Ramamurthi said they were helping the police in investigations and the parents to take Rahul’s body back to home. He said there was no official communication about the death as the police investigation was on. “We are giving all possible help to the family,” he said.
Meanwhile, a Facebook post by a student that is being shared by the students has this to say: “I don’t hear or see anything around me acknowledging the tragic end of someone who shared this campus space with us, who probably ate at the same mess, shared a classroom or hostel. This silence is deafening, disturbing. Have we become so indifferent, that we don’t pause for a while, that it doesn’t matter because it isn’t us or me?”
In the wake of the recent suicide, a student writes about his own battle with depression, and how he overcame it.