Ground Report Part 2: How Kota has turned fear of student suicides into a business.

Kota in Rajasthan is famous for its coaching centres and now infamous for student suicides. Why, despite helplines, counsellors and psychologists, are student suicides rising in Kota? And how the fear of students dying by suicide has spawned a new business in the city.  

My son was excited and went on a shopping spree before leaving for Kota. He bought new clothes and bags. He had gone to Kota with the dream of becoming a doctor. But within 45 days, his body returned home. The delicate neck around which I used to carefully tie even cotton holy threads, had a black, deep mark of the noose,” the woman says.

“They all got together and killed him,” the woman who lost her son breaks down on the phone. Unconsolable sobs of a mother who has lost the most prized possession of her life.

On May 11, 16-year-old Umesh Verma hanged himself from the ceiling fan of a hostel room in Kota’s Kunhari.

When he didn’t answer his phone despite several calls on May 10, his parents sent a relative to Umesh’s hostel. Upon breaking into the room, they found Umesh’s body hanging from the ceiling fan. All the rooms next to his were occupied but no one even got a whiff of what was going on.

Fourteen students, preparing for NEET and JEE in Kota, have died by suicide just this year, of which nine suicides were in May-June. In most cases, no one knew that a student had died by suicide for several hours.

But suicides aren’t something new to Kota, neither are the claims of preventing them.

Read the first part of the series here: Why some of the lakhs of students who come to Kota every year never return


Apart from the advertisements of coaching centres, the other thing that is omnipresent in Kota are the helpline numbers. There are several numbers splashed across the city that claim to operate 24×7 and listen to students and counsel them. There are special police booths for students. The coaching institutes too have hired professional psychologists. But Kota still sees student suicides, and it sees them regularly.

But why? The city tries to evade this question. “Lakhs of students come to Kota every year, is it a big deal if a couple of them die? You Delhiwallas are concerned about everybody and everything,” says a Kota local.

I kept scouring Kota for a day and a half looking for answers. I met students, parents, hostel owners, police officers and counsellors. Most don’t want to have any interaction the moment they hear the word ‘media’. Some speak requesting that their identity isn’t divulged. Many blame the suicides squarely on the students and their parents.


“As soon as a child becomes a school topper, parents start dreaming. They think their child is capable of topping one of the toughest exams in the country,” says Bhagwan Birla, president of Landmark City hostel association. “When the child lands up in Kota, he realises that he might be the topper of his school, but here he stands no chance. This usually ends up with the student returning home or dying by suicide,” adds Birla.

“Will we have any ill intention regarding the students through whom we earn our living? Family members keep piling on pressure, and some students can’t handle the pressure and crumble,” says Birla.

In the hunt for stories of such kids and to know what exactly happened, I dug out the numbers of some parents whose children had died by suicide in recent months.

Umesh was one such student.

He was from Khurja in Uttar Pradesh and the youngest in the family. He hung himself from the ceiling fan of his hostel room after 40 days in Kota. I spoke to Umesh’s mother on the phone.

“My son was good at his studies. Was preparing to crack the medical entrance exam,” says Umesh’s mother. “We got him a hostel for Rs 15,000 a month. They were supposed to take care of food, laundry, everything. We said you just study.” The voice on the other side of the phone goes silent.

I hold my breath and wait. The silence continues. I break the silence and ask, “Then?”

“Then what? Two days before he died, he complained of a severe headache. We spoke to him on a video call and he asked for some hair oil that would have a relaxing effect. He took a tablet for the headache on the call itself. Then everything seemed fine, until his suicide,” Umesh’s mother says.
“I called him several times the day before his death, but he didn’t take the calls. Then I called him at 6 am on May 11 (the day he died), the phone still kept singing. We had heard of tragic reports from Kota, so we rushed a relative to his hostel. By then everything was over,” she says.

Umesh’s family later came to know from his friends that his teachers had scolded him a lot. “They said, why are you wasting your parents’ money? Most likely he couldn’t bear that thought,” she says.

“People at the coaching centre, the hostel, everyone joined in and killed him. The same people who we had entrusted with his well-being,” she says in a voice choked with emotion, and appeals, “please do something”.

It was as if a mother’s hand had reached out, seeking help. I assure her and hang up.


The second family I call is Nishant’s in Bihar’s Rohtas.

Nishant was preparing for NEET and had been in Kota for over a year. Then he hanged himself. A suicide note was found on his table. “Mummy, Papa, you have done a lot for me. I couldn’t do it. Please forgive me.”

In one of Kota’s police stations as I was going through such notes, I asked a police officer, “Don’t parents take the notes with them as a memory of their children?”

“These are not memories, but reminders of their death. Which parent will have the heart to keep the notes with them? So, we keep them along with the records,” the police officer replied.

My phone call is answered by Nishant’s father. When I introduce myself, he initially refuses to engage in a conversation. On persisting and requesting, he starts to talk but immediately I hear someone wailing near him.

“Nishu’s (Nishant’s) mother is crying. That’s why I don’t talk to anyone about him. She breaks down inconsolably each and every time Nishant’s name is mentioned,” he says in an apologetic tone.


I stop calling the families of the students who died by suicide and instead head for the apartments where people who have left their jobs and cities to be with their kids stay.

The 1BHK flats form an unbroken chain. The apartment manager takes me to one of the flats and leaves.

I knock and a woman opens the door. She is from Jhansi, Uttar Pradesh. One being asked why she was staying in Kota, she says, “My daughter is very choosy when it comes to food. She would have fallen ill had she stayed in a hostel. And we don’t have any other fear too as I am here,” she says.

“What fear?”

“The fear of what we regularly get to hear from Kota. Please don’t talk about it anymore, my daughter will be returning from her coaching class anytime now,” she says, while showing me around the flat.

There is every hint of how she has tried to make this place her home. There is a bottle of pickle on the cooler in the main hall, then there is a comb and a can of powder. There is a stove and some utensils. The room inside must be where her daughter studies, there are colourful notes sticking out of a bunch of white sheets.

The woman’s husband is a doctor and they have a palatial house in Jhansi.

“How does it feel to leave behind friends and family and stay here with your daughter?”

“Think of it as tapasya (penance),” she says, breaking into a laugh.

I go around several flats. If a student is staying with his grandparents in one, another has a girl staying with her grandmother. In one of the flats, a man from West Bengal is accompanying his daughter so that she doesn’t “deviate from her mission”.

“Her mother has a job in Chennai. I have a business that I am managing somehow from here,” he says in Bengali-sprinkled Hindi.

The trend started as news of suicides started coming out of Kota regularly. Apart from hostels and PGs, family members are now renting out flats and staying with their children in Kota. Their only fear — children shouldn’t go astray, shouldn’t deviate.

Kota has even turned this fear into business.

This is the sole reason why these 1BHK flats have come up. One doesn’t need to worry about anything, just shift to one of these flats with your bags of books and clothes. The building manager takes care of everything — from cooking gas to water filters — and even drives away the lizard that sneaks into the flat.

There are hoardings of ‘rooms on rent’ in every corner of Kota, posters promising ‘home-cooked food’ in every canteen. And amid these are the children who have never returned home, whose names the locals in Kota avoid discussing, and when they do, they do so in a conspiratorial tone.

(This article is the second of a three-part series on Kota coaching institutes and student suicides)