Sixty-one students have died by suicide over the past five years at India’s premier institutions of higher education, government data show.
Of these, the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) accounted for more than half, the ministry of education told parliament yesterday (March 27). The National Institutes of Technology (NIT) and Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs) accounted for the rest. The data correspond to the years from 2018 to 2023 so far.
“The reasons identified behind such suicides include academic stress, family reasons, personal reasons, mental health issues, etc,” the ministry said.
India has 23 IITs, 20 IIMs, and 31 NITs, with around 62,500 students studying in them.
Between 2014 and 2021, up to 122 students died by suicide on these campuses, the government informed parliament in December 2021.
Caste-based bias at educational institutions
While the government did not specifically mention caste-based bias in the list of reasons for these deaths, it cannot be ruled out.
Fresh data released by India’s education ministry showed that around half the students who died by suicide in these elite colleges belonged to scheduled caste (SC), scheduled tribe (ST), economically weaker section (EWS), and other backward communities (OBC).
In 2014-2021, up to 68 of the 122 deaths were of students belonging to SC, ST, and OBC categories.
The discussion around the alleged caste-based bias prevailing in these institutions came to the fore most recently following the death of IIT Bombay student Darshan Solanki in February. The institution had ruled out such discrimination as a possible cause of the death. However, Solanki’s suicide note indicates that Solanki may have faced “caste-based harassment on campus.”
What is being done to prevent deaths by suicide?
Listing out various measures taken by the government to prevent deaths by suicide among students, the education ministry said it had undertaken steps to ease the academic stress. These include peer-assisted learning and the introduction of technical education in regional languages.
“...Besides this, students’ specialised psychological counselling helplines, students’ wellness centres, a buddy-support system, and various other measures have been implemented in IITs and other institutions, for early detection of cases of psychological stress,” parliament was told.