Govt says 34 IIT students died by suicide from 2014-21, but news reports point to 52 deaths. What happened?

According to the data that EdexLive had collated by tracking news reports from 2014 to 2021, it says that at least 52 IIT students have died by suicide while studying in these institutes
Pic: EdexLive
Pic: EdexLive

There appears to be a mismatch in the number of suicides among students in the IITs and those reported during the corresponding period. 

On Monday, December 20, Dharmendra Pradhan, Union Minister of Education had presented the data at the Lok Sabha on students who had died by suicide in the country's Higher Education Institutions. The data says that between 2014 and 2021, 122 students died by suicide in all the IITs, IIMs, IISc, IISERs, IIITs, Central Universities, NITs and CFTIs combined.

According to the Ministry, 37 of these deaths occurred in Central Universities, 34 occurred in the IITs and 30 happened in the NITs. Of the total number of students who died by suicide in these seven years, 58 per cent belong to SC, ST, OBC and minority communities combined. The minister was answering a question raised by DMK MP AKP Chinraj.

When we pointed out the difference in the number of deaths, Chinraj said that he would point it out to the ministry, again. Meanwhile, mental health practitioners whom we spoke to pointed out that the mismatch could be because the suicide data is sourced from the National Crime Records Bureau and that no health agency records it.

READ ALSO : Minister Talasani makes insensitive remarks on recent Telangana student suicides, angers parents

But are these numbers accurate?
According to the data that EdexLive had collated by tracking news reports from 2014 to 2021, there are reports of at least 52 IIT students who have died by suicide, while studying in these institutes. While most of these deaths occurred in 2019 (11), nine deaths occurred in 2014. It may be recalled that 2019 was the same year in which Fathima Latheef, a master's student of IIT Madras took her life, allegedly owing to faculty discrimination. Her suicide created a hue and cry at the time. Of the students who took their lives during this period, nine were from IIT Kharagpur, while eight were from IIT Guwahati.

What is the government doing about it?

"The Government of India and the University Grants Commission (UGC) have taken several initiatives to check the incidents of harassment and discrimination of students. University Grants Commission (Redressal of Grievances of Students) Regulations, 2019 have been formulated to safeguard the interests of the students," Pradhan said in a written response.

"The Ministry has undertaken various steps such as peer assisted learning and introducing technical education in regional languages for students in order to ease the academic stress. The Government of India's initiative named MANODARPAN covers a wide range of activities to provide psychological support to students, teachers and families for mental and emotional well-being during the COVID outbreak and beyond. In addition, institutions conduct workshops/seminars on Happyness and Wellness, regular sessions on yoga, induction programmes, extracurricular activities including sports and cultural activities and appointment of Student Counsellors for overall personality development and de-stressing students. Further, students, wardens and caretakers are sensitised to bring to notice the signs of depression in fellow students to the authorities so that timely clinical consultation may be provided," he added.

If you are feeling depressed or anxious, please do reach out and connect with professional help, available on these numbers in your states:

Suicide helpline numbers

Sneha Suicide Prevention Centre, Chennai
Number: 044 2464 0050

Sahai Helpline, Bengaluru
Number: 080 2549 7777

DISHA, Kerala

Sumaitri, Delhi
Number: +91 011 23389090

Hope Helpline for Students, Rajasthan
91 0744 2333666

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