September 1, 2023
The walls of a Radha Krishna temple in Kota bear witness to the mounting pressures faced by aspiring students. Messages like “Please God ye ho nahi sakta” (God, this is impossible) and heartfelt pleas to fulfill their dreams adorn the temple’s facade, reflecting the despair of NEET and engineering entrance exam aspirants in this educational hub.
Kota, known as the “suicide capital” of Rajasthan, has long been a magnet for students seeking to crack the country’s most prestigious engineering and medical college entrance exams. However, the relentless pressure of these exams has taken a toll on the mental health of these young scholars, leading to a disturbing rise in suicides.
A Desperate Cry for Help
Official figures indicate that 25 students have died by suicide in Kota from January to August this year, averaging one tragic loss every tenth day. Yet, many believe this number to be an understatement, with several more unreported cases from other states.
One student from Bihar, preparing for the NEET exam, shared the grueling routine: “We study for at least 12 to 14 hours a day. We are cut off from everything. And when we score badly, we feel bad about our parents. They are poor and are spending a lot of money on building our future.”
The intense competition and fear of disappointing their families weigh heavily on these young minds. The pressure is exacerbated by coaching centers that emphasize the importance of gaining admission to elite institutions, fostering a belief that success in lower-ranked colleges is inadequate.
Officials Respond to Crisis
In response to the alarming increase in student suicides, authorities in Kota have taken several measures. A student cell was established in June, receiving approximately 150 distress calls. When students express thoughts of suicide, a team, including a counselor, is dispatched to provide immediate support. Counseling sessions are conducted, and parents are informed, with some students being sent home for rehabilitation.
The district administration has temporarily suspended weekly tests in coaching centers and introduced “half-day study, half-day fun” programs to relieve the students’ stress. The Rajasthan government has also assembled a team of clinical psychologists to address the rising suicide cases in Kota.
Mandatory attendance during meals and recreational activities like water park visits and movie outings are among the initiatives aimed at improving students’ mental well-being.
Increasing Admissions and Rising Suicides
Kota’s allure as an educational haven has only grown, with over 2 lakh students enrolling in coaching institutes in 2023, a 43 percent increase from 2021. Unfortunately, this educational boom has been accompanied by a stark rise in student suicides, from 17 in 2015 to 25 in 2023 (until August).
Data reveals that 87 percent of these suicides were male students, with the remaining 13 percent being female students. The majority of students hail from five states: Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat, Maharashtra, and Rajasthan.
The situation remains dire as the pressure on these young scholars continues to mount. Balancing academic aspirations with the need for mental well-being remains a significant challenge in Kota’s demanding educational landscape. Efforts by authorities and educators are crucial in ensuring the safety and mental health of these ambitious students who converge on this city with dreams of a brighter future.