Kanpur, June 4 The Indian Institute of Technology-Kanpur (IIT-K) authorities may soon find themselves in a soup over the growing number of suicides in the campus.
The institute has seen two fresh suicides over the last two months. And while in one case, they face an RTI query, the other may end in the filing of a criminal case against them.
The man contemplating a criminal case is Sunder Lal Kureel — father of Prashant Kureel, who committed suicide on April 18. And following the recent suicide of Toya Chatterjee, Omendra Bharat, an IIT alumnus and chief Bharat Punarnirman Dal (BPD), has moved a plea under Right To Information Act.
A first year BTech student, Kureel had hanged himself in his hostel room. His father holds the IIT-K authorities responsible. Demanding a CBI inquiry on the issue, he said that mental stress along with ragging and prevailing casteism was responsible for his son’s death.
“The IIT-K authorities are not going to mend their ways and it will result to more suicides in the future,” Kureel told The Indian Express. The prevailing faulty system of administration was responsible for the high number of suicides, said Kureel, who is a regional director in the Office of National Savings Institute, Ministry of Finance. “After attending an official meeting in New Delhi on June 6, I will return to Kanpur and file a criminal case against the IIT-K authorities.” He said he has already chalked out the procedure with his advocate. “I have decided to raise my voice against the IIT-K authorities so some lives can be saved.”
The RTI plea of Bharat is the other concern for the institute authorities. He has questioned the criteria of grading the students in semester exams. His contention is also that action is required against teachers if a large number of their students are getting F-grade (fail).
Another important point included is regarding the Feedback Form filled by students at the end of each semester. “Has any action ever been initiated against any teacher on basis of the Feedback Form?” Bharat asked. He pointed out that though Toya was a brilliant student, no one is aware why she failed two semester exams.
“She had cleared the CAT exams and had secured 1,570 marks out of 1,600 in the Graduate Record Examination, which indicates about her educational skills,” he said.
“I too have suffered due to the poor grading system. One grade down means a reduction of 20 per cent mark in a subject at IIT-K,” he said. “In other IITs, a lower grade means a 10 per cent reduction.”
Lucknow: The suicide by Ritika Toya Chatterjee, a B.Tech final year student of the Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur (IIT-K), is the fifth in three years that is being blamed on a "hush-hush grading system" and a "poor grievance redressal mechanism."
Ritika killed herself on May 30 after she failed in two of her final semester exams, despite having offers to join any of the six Indian Institutes of Management she wanted to. Ritika's suicide was nothing new for IIT-K. It was the second in 45 days and seventh in three years. Five of the seven suicides were due to failure in exams.
Now the IIT-K alumni association is up in arms against the institute's administration over the evaluation of answer scripts. "Primarily, the hush-hush evaluation and grading system in exams, besides the poor grievance redressal mechanism for students and unfriendly nature of some teachers, has been taking a heavy toll on the students of IIT-K," founder member of IIT-K alumni association Omendra Bharat told IANS.
He said Ritika's suicide had once again put the institute's evaluation system under the scanner. "If a student like Ritika, who had cleared the written exams and the interviews of all the six IIMs can fail, you need not look for more evidence to expose the irregularities in IIT-K's evaluation and grading system," reasoned Bharat.
An angry alumni association has sought Ritika's results from the institute under the Right To Information (RTI) Act.
The association has also sought results of all the students who had committed suicide after failing the exams. "We have learnt that 11 out of 14 students of the Biology Science and Bio-Engineering (BSBE) Department, where Ritika studied, failed this year despite many of them getting over 56 percent," said Bharat.
He asserted that the information that would be available thanks to the RTI Act would show that IIT-K had been despotic in giving "F" (Fail) grades to students who score even 60 percent and not giving any reason for the failure.
Meanwhile, speaking to IANS, IIT-K students also attributed the suicides to the "unnecessary academic pressure being created by a few professors" of the institute.
"Some teachers tend to create pressure on students by giving them last-minute assignments before the exams," said Akshat Chandra, a former student.
Akshat, who took admission to IIT-K about three years ago in a five-year integrated M.Sc course, dropped out in his second year as he was not able to cope with the pressure. "I was not able to cope with the pressure delivered by the assignments and projects and ultimately decided to quit," said Akshat, who is now studying for his MBA from an institute in Gurgaon, Haryana.
Citing another example, the students said that some professors were in the habit of warning students that they will fail in the exams. "In fact, a few months back, a professor of the civil engineering department had sent an e-mail to the students that contained names of the students who were likely to get `F' (Fail) grade in the exams," said B.Tech third year student Sarthak Kumar.
A batch-mate of Ritika who did not want to be identified said that students lost faith in themselves due to regular taunts by the teachers. "Because of the repeated threats, the same students who qualified for one of the country's toughest exams tend to doubt their abilities and after frustration they take the extreme step," he added.
The students suggested the institute make changes in the present grading pattern and scrap the `F' grade. Moreover, they said IIT-K needed to strengthen its counselling centres set up for the students. "At present, professors are the only members of the counselling panel. The panel needs to have ex-students of IITs as students are hesitant to approach the faculty members for counselling," a student pointed out.
Asked about the suicides, IIT-K director Sanjay Govind Dhande told IANS: "At this stage we definitely need to have an academic introspection to see what is ailing our students."
He said the institute had decided to hold yoga sessions and art-of-living workshops regularly on the campus for the benefit of students. (Some students' names have been changed to protect their identities)
Kanpur: Despite suicides by a number of students at IIT Kanpur in the last five years, one of the country's premier institutes has not constituted any inquiry committee to probe the causes of the extreme steps taken by its students, an RTI inquiry revealed on Thursday.
The RTI application was filed by PTI seeking details from the institute's authorities regarding the number students who committed suicide, the reports of the inquiry committees formed after each suicide and the preventive measures taken after the incidents.
The response to the application stated that the concerned authorities did not have any information about the reasons behind the suicides of the eight IITians that took place over a five-year period from 2005-2010.
"No inquiry committee has been formed to investigate the cause behind these suicides but a fact finding committee led by a senior professor has been formed to suffice the purpose," IIT Kanpur Director Professor Sanjay Govind Ghande said.
He said the task of the fact finding committee is to inspect if any student or faculty member is responsible for the incidents of suicide, but no such case has come up so far.
However, Ghande declined to comment on the report prepared by the committee, saying it is an internal matter of the institution.
According to the response to the RTI application, among the eight students who committed suicide, five killed themselves by hanging from ceiling fans, one by jumping from the terrace of the faculty building and the two by jumping before a train and consuming poison respectively.
More than a month has passed since Madhuri Sale, a final year BTech student of the institute was found hanging from the ceiling fan in her hostel room here.
But no progress has been made in this regard.
"A counseling centre has been formed at the premises of the institute to de-stress the students and help them solve their problems. Besides this, several social and entertainment programmes like galaxy, spectrum and yoga classes were also organised at regular intervals for the students," he said in reply to the query regarding the steps taken to prevent any further suicides.
He said the students focus less on their studies following the freedom they enjoy in the institution and those who committed suicide took the step after they were unable to bear academic pressure.