Ground Report Part 3: Those who are troubled are bundled back home from Kota.

Kota in Rajasthan is famous for its coaching centres and now infamous for student suicides. NEET and JEE aspirants don’t have friends here and prefer to stay alone in hostel rooms. It seems Kota grooms children for loneliness. Those who are troubled are sent back home as soon as they are spotted.

As I sit in the student cell department of a police station in Kota, the phone rings. On the other side of the phone is a girl who has come to Kota to prepare for the NEET exam and become a doctor. Now, she is talking about killing herself.

“I want to meet this girl,” I tell the police officer. With a bit of concern and foreboding on his face, he says: “It doesn’t take a lot of time for cases like these to worsen. She lives on the 6th floor. In six seconds, it could all be over.”

This call was not the first or the last. The phone rings several times while I sit there.

They had all come to Kota nurturing a dream of topping NEET and JEE and becoming a successful doctor or engineer. But these dreams are now drowning in a sea of sorrow.

Since the beginning of this year, 15 students have taken their lives. There’s still half the year to go.


Kota is on a warpath. The city, which is now being called the suicide capital of India, needs to change its image.

From counsellors, to rickshaw-pullers and chaiwalas on the street, everyone is now a detective. They are ready to identify “problematic students” and inform the coaching centres, so that they can be sent back immediately.

“Why should we let a rotten apple spoil the barrel?” says the media advisor of a very reputed coaching institute. “But please don’t mention my name,” he adds.

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

During the process of meeting students and parents, I also come across a lot of experts. They all admit that they are trying very hard to prevent suicide cases in the city, but the problem is not with the city or coaching institutes, it lies in the students and their parents.

As I enter the office of Dr Harish Sharma, a counsellor in one of the top institutes of Kota, he puts a ceramic model of the human brain on the table straight away. While pointing with a pencil, he tries to explain our brain structure. “See this once and you will understand everything,” he says.

“If you have a toothache, you don’t go to a carpenter, you go to a dentist. Children do not understand this. They keep talking to their friends and family, and then things go out of control,” says Dr Sharma.

“So, have the students who have come to you never experienced any suicidal thoughts?”

The question remains unanswered.

The doctor now moves on to describe the symptoms of “such children”.

“The calls often come late at night. They don’t like to share their feelings in person. The counselling sessions run 24 hours. We try to talk to them, make them understand. If needed, rush to the hostel in the middle of the night. Many times, we even involve the parents so that they can understand as well,” Dr Sharma says.

“Are such students also ‘deported’ from Kota?”

“Yes, a lot of times. If the situation is severe, and even a short break from studies doesn’t help, then we send them back home.

“So are the coaching institutes trying to somehow avoid any responsibility?”

“Look, madam, a coaching centre is meant for teaching, not treatment. It’s not a hospital. We make every effort, but if the situation doesn’t improve, what else can we do? Often, it’s the parents’ mistake. We also conduct training programmes for them, but most parents are in a hurry to go back home. They just admit their children here and leave,” Dr Sharma alleges.

Read the second part here: How Kota has turned fear of student suicides into a business

In the half-an-hour meeting, Dr Harish Sharma shows me the structure of the brain, praises his stationed counsellors, but avoids real questions. We don’t talk about any data, it’s not his domain of expertise. He does not talk about the students who were told they were done and sent back.

As I step outside, I see a lot of students walking in the scorching sun, wearing similar t-shirts, carrying similar bags and umbrellas. The same dullness on each face. They all walk in a rush, and it seems, with the same fear in their minds — I cannot be left behind.


In Kota, I discover an odd phenomenon: The hostels here only have single-occupancy rooms, not shared with other students. But, why?

On being asked this question, Bhagwan Birla, head of Landmark City Hostel Association, says, “Even sisters cannot stay together here. When they arrive, they demand a shared room, but that changes well before a month. So, we have started creating single rooms. Whenever we kept a few rooms for twin-sharing, they remained vacant.”

Unknowingly, this city trains children in loneliness. The young minds, who leave their homes to stay and study here, are taught that those around them are not friends, but competitors. You can only win when they lose.

The lesson deepens every day. It’s all about scores and rankings. In all these, nobody cares if a child misses a few classes, skips dinners. In fact, it comes as a relief to some — Oh, one more out of the race!

I meet numerous children throughout the city, but there is no sign of concern for those who left midway. Everyone seems to be caught up in their own race, just walking forward, like a machine.

A student tells me, “If you befriend a weak student, you won’t get motivated to work hard. If you befriend a good student and try to match the pace, you will feel scared. I have no friends left after coming here.” His exhausted voice feels as if he has travelled miles to reach here.


Suicides happen, but there are several cases where the child survives. But they shouldn’t “pollute the minds” of others. And thus, those who have survived suicidal thoughts become a mere afterthought and are bundled back to their homes in a hurry.

The coaching centres and even the police fear that their negative thoughts on life, struggle and death might spread like a virus.

A few weeks ago, a student cell was set up in Kota with a helpline number. Students can call and share their troubles and talk to the counsellors any time of the day. Looking at the posters, one can understand the urgency of this city. Although the number of student suicides may be in dozens, the thought is probably living in the minds of thousands.

Additional Superintendent of Police (ASP) Chandrashil Thakur is in charge of the student cell. As I sit with him for a brief meeting, his phone rings several times.

A girl crying on the phone, a 17-year-old boy who has left his studies and has started living with local goons. “He is no longer a student but is headed towards becoming a criminal. Before anything serious happens, we identify such individuals and send them back. We identify and send back around 200 to 400 such children every year,” Thakur says.

“Most of these students are lost. Many are depressed. If we feel that they can’t stay away from home, we involve the parents and ask them to take them back,” the police officer says.


But what happens after that? Is there any follow-up on these children who are sent back? No one seems to have any information about this.

Perhaps they were like “viruses” that spread fear in the city.

In a bitter tone, Bhagwan Birla of the hostel association says, “It’s not that you have to keep working hard forever. It’s just about a year or two. After that, everything will fall in place. If any student cannot do even this, then is it the fault of a coaching centre, a hostel or the city?”

He has a valid point. It is not the fault of any coaching institute, hostel, or the city.

The mistake lies in the fact that the entire system is focused on producing winners. The children who are left behind remain unnoticed or are quickly forgotten. Even if they are noticed, it is in the form of a blot or an infamy. Maybe a little sensitivity, a little tenderness can help rectify the situation.

It was my last hour in Kota. In front of me were several posters of successful students put up by various coaching institutes. Numerous faces, in different uniforms, flashing the victory sign. These are those who have won. Behind them are many others who have lost, some even their lives.

Talking over the phone from Uttar Pradesh, a mother of a student who died by suicide in Kota says, “He, who used to call my name in fever, how tormented he must have been while tying a noose to take his life. Kota has ruined my life.”

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

Source of the article.