19-year-old Aishwarya, a second-year student of Lady Shri Ram College took her own life on November 2, stating that she could not afford her education.

Aishwarya Reddy dressed in a green skirt and white top posing on a walkway over a river
news Controversy Thursday, November 19, 2020 - 16:05

Contesting the claims made by Lady Shri Ram College’s Principal Dr Suman Sharma, that Aishwarya Reddy did not reach out to the college for help, the college’s Students’ Union on Wednesday issued a detailed statement attaching several representations the union had made to various members of the administration including the Principal, about how online education affected students from economically disadvantaged backgrounds. The union said that Aishwarya, the second-year BSc student, would not have taken her own life if the administration had considered their requests.

19-year-old Aishwarya, a resident of Shadnagar in Hyderabad took her own life on November 2, stating that she could not afford her education. Two months before the suicide, the deceased student had said in an ‘inclusive education’ survey conducted by the student representatives that she was facing difficulty in attending online classes as she did not have a laptop -- a necessary equipment for online classes. She also added that her mobile phone was also not working properly, and that she had a tough time doing practical work.  Aishwarya comes from a poor family. Her father works as a mechanic while her mother is a tailor. The family had already mortgaged their gold and taken a loan against their house for her education. In the suicide letter, the deceased student who had an impressive academic record wrote, “I cannot live without studies. I have been pondering over this for a long time.”

“Had the issues that were mentioned in the mails given due consideration and some action been taken on the same, we might not have lost Aishwarya. It is the apathy of the DU, the LSR Admin, the principal, the hostel warden that despite repeated requests, no consideration was given to these issues,” the union said in a statement.  

The union added, “And even after all this, our college released the statement ‘regretting’ the fact that the college admin has been ‘unjustly targeted.’”

The ‘inclusive education survey in which 1,450 of the 2,000 college students participated, revealed that 30% of the students did not have their laptops; 40% were attending online classes with poor internet access; 92% of the students without laptops felt that the administration failed to help them; 96% of them shared that the online classes had an impact on their mental health.

Aishwarya’s death has been termed as “institutional murder” by the union, as she died  to policy-level failure, allege students. Besides sharing concerns of students lacking necessary tools for online classes, the union had also voiced out against the controversial ‘first-year only’ hostel accommodation policy and wrote a letter about it to the administration earlier in June, 2019.  However, the policy was not revoked.

On September 27, Aishwarya received a letter asking to vacate the hostel immediately as she entered her second-year. According to her family, Aishwarya was worried about how she would manage to shift to a private facility while her family was struggling to meet ends.

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