Bring An End To Rat Race: NHRC Asks For Regulation Of Private Coaching Institutes After Kota Students Die By Suicide.

Kota, the hub of private coaching centres, has made headlines once again with the alleged suicide of three students. Over the years, Kota has reported an alarming number of deaths by suicide and has seen students speak out about the extreme pressure they undergo in the preparations to qualify for India’s best colleges.

With the recent incident, once again unfurling the darker side of competitive exams in the country, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has acknowledged the growing concern. They have sent notices and a set of regulations to the Rajasthan government, the Union secretary of higher education, and the chairperson of the National Medical Commission in Kota. 

Alarming Graph Of Suicide Cases

News media outlets were flooded with reports about the alleged suicide of three students preparing for competitive exams in Rajasthan’s Kota on December 12. According to a Times of India report, the boys, aged as young as 16, 17, and 18, were preparing for engineering and medicine entrance examinations. This, however, is not the first time Kota has made it to the news for the immense mental pressure it exerts upon students and the suicide cases that then follow. As a matter of fact, centres across the country are infamous for pushing students over the edge with long class durations, assignments, and competitive internal tests which determine whether a student gets promoted or demoted.

Students have often complained about the high stress they endure during the preparations, following which the Rajasthan Government, in 2019, constituted a committee to prepare a legislative draft for the regulation of coaching centres to reduce stress among the students. Kota administration had also set up suicide helplines to counsel anxious students as a response to widespread media scrutiny over cases of teen suicides and self-harm.

Addressing The Human Rights Concern.

The NHRC, on December 14, took suo motu cognisance of the alleged suicide incidents that had occurred within a span of 12 hours. They observed that there’s a need to regulate private coaching institutes and ensure that students learn in a stress-free environment. Acknowledging that many teenagers are pushed to the verge of mental stress at coaching institutes, NHRC stated that it amounts to a “grave issue” of human rights.

The statement further noted that a very hefty amount is being charged to students and these students from across the country “are staying in hostels/paying guest houses with a high expectation of success,” which puts them under a lot more pressure. They believe there’s a need to formulate a regulatory mechanism in consultation with the central government, under which measures have to be suggested and taken by the state to regulate the private coaching institutions in view of the alarming number of reported student suicides. Notices regarding the same have been issued to the chief secretary, Government of Rajasthan; the secretary of Higher Education, Union Ministry of Education, and the chairperson of the National Medical Commission, and a response and a detailed report is expected to be submitted accordingly. 

Additionally, the regulation must also contain a long-term plan to “adequately address the issue of psychological and behavioural abnormality of the students undergoing coaching in different private institutes.” Both parents and students should be offered counselling so they do not feel isolated or undergo huge pressure of expectation. For the same, there’s a proposal in the talk about a National Action Plan for a proportional increase of the seats in technical and medical education in order to get rid of the rat race of getting admission. The chairperson of the National Medical Commission is expected to inform about initiating progressive and student-friendly mechanisms that would relieve students from the excruciating mental and psychological pressure of coaching in private institutions. 

Some free helplines that work around the clock and can be reached out to are- iCall (9152987821), Aasra (91 9820466726), Maithri (91 484 2540530), Vandrevala Foundation for Mental Health (9999666555) and others. You can also access the collated list of working free helplines across different states in India through the suicide prevention helpline directory of Aasra. If you need support, or know someone who needs support, do reach out to the nearest mental health specialist or reach out to these above mentioned helplines.