Yet another question demanding data related to the COVID-19 lockdown was dismissed by the Union government without an answer on Saturday. This time, it was DMK MP Kanimozhi who had asked for details regarding student suicides during the lockdown 'due to lack of access to digital means'. The Ministry of Education to whom the question was posed in the Lok Sabha, however, claimed that they did not possess the data.
Kanimozhi, in her unstarred question, had put forth four questions. The MP had asked if there was increase in the suicide of students during the lockdown due to lack of access to digital means, for the number of students suicides in the Scheduled Caste, Scheduled Tribe, Other Backward Classes and Economically Weak Sections catergories, for the number of student suicides between the ages of 18 and 30 after imposition of the lockdown and the number of suicides of students who were to appear for JEE (Joint Entrance Examination) and NEET (National Eligibility cum Entrance Test).
In response to these questions, the Government of India claimed to be ‘extremely sensitive’ towards providing education, but claimed that it did not have collated data of student suicides.
The following was the answer provided by Union Education Minister Ramesh Pokhriyal:
“The Government is extremely sensitive towards providing education to all sections of society during the on-going pandemic. The Ministry has undertaken an initiative, named Manodarpan, covering a wide range of activities to provide psychological support to students, teachers and families for mental health and emotional wellbeing during the Covid-19 outbreak and beyond. There is a provision of tele-counseling to address their mental health and psychological
issues. NCERT has issued a detailed guideline under the document PRAGYATA which highlights important measures to be followed while using digital platforms. However, no centralized data on suicide cases are maintained by the Ministry.”
The Union government has already come under immense criticism for failing to provide data on the deaths of migrant labourers who were forced to undertake long journeys on foot during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The government is deliberately stonewalling information and failing to provide data on crucial issues,” said DMK spokesperson A Saravanan. “They know that the numbers are stark and want to hide it from the general public. The figures that they are refusing to give will shatter their claims of good governance and expose their faults,” he added.
The DMK said that data gives power to the Opposition and the general public to ask fact-backed questions.
“Data plays a major role in understanding how serious a problem it is. It also helps locate vulnerable regions,” said Saravanan, adding, “Denying data is a way for the BJP government to protect its image.”