Suicides of entrance aspirants in Kotatext_fields
The news from Kota in Rajasthan the other day may not have been noticed by many: the suicide of a student studying for the 'NEET' medical entrance exam. This has become routine in Kota, marking the 26th suicide this year in a city that has become a hub for entrance exam training centres in the country. A 20-year-old student from UP, who hanged himself, was living with his father and sister in Kota. The father is also a teacher at the training centre, and the sister is also a student there. Although the reasons for the suicide have not been revealed yet, the widespread suicides among entrance coaching students in Kota have already become a topic of discussion. The local government had already started taking preventive measures. Hostel wardens, mess employees, and members of the houses where students live as guests have been appointed to inform them if they see signs of mental stress. In addition, district officials are seeking ways to address students' mental health through a questionnaire. At the end of last month, two NEET candidates aged 16 and 18 from the states of Maharashtra and Bihar committed suicide with a difference of just four hours. According to the figures, there has been a 60% increase in suicides after the Covid period. While there were 15 in 2022, there have been 26 so far this year. According to police records, it was seven in 2017, 20 in 2018, and 18 in 2019.
The government has tried to address the issue by installing nets around buildings where students live and by installing fans with springs that will stop students from hanging themselves. However, these measures do not address the root cause of the problem. Many students who come to Kota to prepare for entrance exams are under a lot of mental stress. There are around 200,000 students who come to Kota every year to attend the 150 or so coaching institutes there. Some parents even send their children to Kota as early as the age of 15 or 16 to complete their 10th and 12th grades there. The pressure to perform well in entrance exams is immense. Students are often away from home, and they have to deal with a heavy workload without the support of their families or friends. They also have limited access to extracurricular activities or other forms of relaxation. When students fail to perform well on practice tests, they often feel like they have failed their lives. This can lead to serious thoughts of suicide. In fact, a student from Maharashtra jumped off a building immediately after taking a practice test. Officials are now calling on coaching institutes to stop conducting practice tests. They argue that these tests are only adding to the pressure on students and making them more vulnerable to suicide.
It is unfortunate that a few young people, who are the future of the country, are turning to death at a time when the relevance of the NEET exam itself is being questioned. The case filed by the Tamil Nadu government, pointing out that admissions were conducted effectively using the plus two exam marks, is now before the Supreme Court. There have been criticisms that the current system favours urban residents, boys, and the wealthy. Although girls are also making some progress, NEET is still a barrier for the poor and rural people. However, it is also true that there were some circumstances that necessitated a single entrance exam. Examples include differences in marks between state syllabuses and the CBSE syllabus, differences in scores between different states, and exam malpractices that take place in many places. Even though there is some justification for this, the entrance exam coaching industry has become a business that defeats the purpose of fairness. It is estimated that there is a business of Rs 10,000 crore in Kota in a year. The Justice A.K. Rajan Commission appointed by the Tamil Nadu government pointed out that over 400 coaching institutions in the state collect Rs 5750 crore a year from only the NEET exam. Although the advantage to the wealthy may be justified for the talented elite, it is contrary to the concept of development with social justice. When studying the suicides in Kota, the problems with entrance exams should also be subjected to a detailed review. Only then can we ensure that professional education has a fair representation for all sections of society.