The suicides occur mostly in junior colleges, where children are kept in a jail-like atmosphere, activists say.

Why are student suicides in Telangana rising SHRC issues notice to stateImage for representation
news Education Friday, August 11, 2017 - 14:00

It was August 9, when 17-year-old Shravya, an Intermediate student studying in Hyderabad, was dropped at the Narayana Junior College in Bandlaguda, by her father.

She was returning to classes, after a week-long vacation at her home in Veligonda, in Telangana's Yadadri Bhuvanagiri district.

Shravya had told her father that she did not want to return to junior college, as she was being harassed over payment of fees. However, he convinced her to return, and personally dropped her at the hostel. 

Before Shravya's father could even leave the premises of the hostel, he received news that his daughter had hung herself from the ceiling fan in her hostel room. She was rushed to the hospital where she was declared brought dead.

Students in the entire college were shocked by the incident, and held protests, blaming the college management for harassing the girl. 

Citing the suicide, a Hyderabad-based activist has now moved the State Human Rights Commission (SHRC) to take note of the rising number of student suicides in Telangana.

"These kinds of incidents are mainly observed in Intermediate students in the two Telugu states, and have been on the rise, unchecked for many years," says activist Achyuta Rao from the Balala Hakkula Sangham (BHS), who moved the SHRC.

Achyuta points out that junior colleges admit students who are either 16 or 17 years old, which is a vital point in their life.

"It is a very crucial age, where the teenagers are trying to understand society. It is the age where they are extra curious to try out new things, and get exposure to a world that is different from what they learn in school," Achyuta says. 

"Instead of being considerate that they need some time to spend with their friends to rest, these junior colleges put them in a jail-like atmosphere under the garb of education," he adds.

Achyuta remarks that junior colleges with hostels attached to them, are often the worst violators.

"Every second of the student's day is controlled. They are told when to wake up, how long to take for each activity, and this goes on from 5am in the morning until 10pm or 11pm at night," he says. 

"Additionally, the teachers are unqualified to handle them, and wardens and supervisors are extremely strict. They do not even let the students step out in the corridor in between classes, and shoo them back into the classroom like animals," he adds.

However, he says that parents are also to blame.

"In the case of parents, they quantify this with money. They often tell the children that they are paying a lot of fees, so that the child can study and get better marks. Such parental pressure also stresses the children out to a great extent," he says.

Achyuta also points at a series of recent occurrences in Hyderabad.

In the last week of June, angry at being denied holidays, students of Narayana Junior College in Nizampet locked up the building, pelted stones and broke windows on three floors, besides ransacking the offices, and damaging furniture in classrooms. 

In a midnight outburst of rage, the students overturned beds, broke switchboards, threw the water tank from the roof, smashed tube lights, and even tried to unsuccessfully set some material on fire.

All this, because they were denied 'homesickness' leaves.

Police were finally called in, who negotiated with the students at 3am, before opening the lock, and informing the children that holidays had been declared.

This incident had come soon after students of Sri Chaitanya Junior College at Bachupally also went on a similar rampage, damaging an RTC bus by hurling stones at it, after the college principal did not let them go for a walk, a day before their final exams.

"If we do not change our approach to educating these children, there is much more violence in store. The students are reacting this way purely because the amount of mental stress we put on them has a tipping point," Achyuta says.

Achyuta points out that students do not get respite even after studying for nine hours a day, as they are faced with homework, and have no time to play.

“Students should not be made like study machines. We need an education so that we raise citizens who avoid the exact anti-social activities that the students recently indulged in. Education is about raising responsible citizens, and imposing restrictions on a teenager, and making him/her feel like they have no control on their life, is counter-productive," he adds.

The SHRC has now issued a notice to Telangana's Principal Secretary (Education). A notice was also issued to the Commissioner of Police, Rachakonda, as Sharvya's suicide occurred under his jurisdiction. 

The two parties have been asked to file a report by August 26, when the case will come up for hearing.