It has been four days since the death of Sai Charan, a 16-year-old student from Vijayawada. Sai Charan, reportedly hung himself from a ceiling fan in the hostel room of Ravindra Bharathi School in Vijayawada.
Since his death on February 15, his family has been unable to cope with their loss.
"Losing a child is difficult for any mother. That is what is happening to my sister, after losing Sai, she has been crying the whole day,” says Sai's uncle, Ramesh*.
Sai Charan moved to a hostel around two years ago from Guntur. It was the first time that he was staying alone without his parents, and it took him a few months time to get used to it, the family says.
"Later, he managed to adjust with other students and the place. I used to take care of his education cost, as my sister was facing a financial crisis,” Ramesh adds.
Sai’s father Ravi Shankar, a priest in Guntur, could not afford the education expenses either.
On February 15, the school management called Sai’s parents and informed them that he was in a 'critical condition'.
“He never complained about anything,” Ramesh says.
“Initially, they did not disclose that Sai committed suicide. Only after my brother-in-law reached there, did we find out that he had died. The school management told us that they found out at 5am, when they saw his body hanging from the ceiling," he adds.
Ravi Shankar also claims that the school management told the family that there was some movement in Sai's body when the authorities first found him.
"They immediately took him to the hospital, but by the time they reached, he was declared brought dead,” Ramesh says.
Following the death, the State Commission for Protection of Child Rights (SCPCR) took notice of the incident, and decided to investigate the reported suicide.
In a new development, the members of the SCPCR have expressed doubts about the school management's version of the story.
According to SCPCR chairperson S Balaraju, the school neglected the implementation of child protection mechanisms in the institute.
“The school staff shifted Sai Charan’s body without informing the police. While they claim that they were unaware of such a law, it is hard to believe that the authorities were unaware of the legal procedure to follow during this kind of an incident. It is clear that they tried to get away with the incident by shifting his body,” Balaraju told TNM.
According to a report by Deccan Chronicle, the hostel warden S Naveen said that the boy had hung himself using a towel, while district child protection officer Vijay Kumar claimed that they did not find any marks of the towel on the ceiling fan, as no dust had been cleared
SCPCR members undertook a surprise visit of the school, where they observed that the school did not have permission to run a hostel in the fourth and fifth floors of the building.
“Other than that, there are 88 students staying in the hostel, while there are just two wardens. Moreover, there is no playground, no fire safety, no proper sanitation in the toilets and they make more than 10 students stay in one room. There is no space to even move around. They are negligent about child protection,” Balaraju says.
He also claimed that the police and district education department has not been taking enough action in the matter
“Mostly, corporate schools are owned by rich people. This is one of the main reasons why they are not taking any action against the school. The government is not serious about children’s safety. There have been more than 30 student suicide cases in Andhra Pradesh in 2017. For the past three years, student suicide cases are on the rise, and have increased by 20%,” he added.