Thursday, February 22, 2024

Student found dead in IIT Madras, fourth incident since February

A second-year undergraduate student at Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Madras, 20-year-old Kedar Suresh Chougule, was found dead in his hostel room in an apparent suicide.

This is the fourth incident of alleged suicide reported in IIT Madras this year, with 12 alleged suicides reported since 2018.

The student’s room was bolted for hours, and when his friends became concerned, they informed the authorities. The hostel warden and students opened the door to find Kedar hanging from a ceiling fan. Kedar was rushed to the medical care facility inside the campus but was pronounced dead at 3:30 pm.

Kotturpuram police have registered a case under unnatural death, and the body has been taken for autopsy.

A scholar at IIT Madras told Maktoob anonymously that Kedar had been suffering from depression since August last year and had sought counseling to improve his mental health.

“Kedar was in depression since last August and seeked counselling for improving his mental health,” the student said.

A letter found from Kedar thanked his parents and friends for their support.

The IIT Madras authorities issued a condolence statement expressing their grief and requested everyone to respect the student’s family’s privacy.

“We are deeply anguished to convey the untimely passing away of an undergraduate student from the Chemical Engineering Department in the afternoon of 21 April 2023 in his hostel room. The Institute has lost one of its own, and the professional community has lost a good student. The reason for the demise is unknown. Police are investigating. The parents have been informed. The Institute expresses its heartfelt condolence and shares the grief of the friends and family of the deceased student. The Institute requests everyone to respect the privacy of the student’s family at this difficult juncture. IIT Madras is taking all possible measures to proactively identify and help students under stress. We will continue to keep strengthening these measures. May the departed soul rest in peace,” read the statement.

It is alarming that in just four months of 2023, four suicides have been reported in IIT Madras. The first incident occurred on February 13, 2023, when Stephen Sunny, a 24-year-old MS Research Scholar in Electrical Engineering and a Malayali student settled in Maharashtra, was found dead. The second incident happened on March 14, 2023, when a 23-year-old third-year electrical engineering (B.Tech) student from Andhra Pradesh, Vaipu Pushpak Sreesai, was found dead. The third incident was the death of Sachin Kumar Jain, a Ph.D. scholar in Mechanical Engineering from West Bengal, who was found dead on March 31, 2023.

An alumunus of IIT Madras, Nikhil told Maktoob: “The Institute culture very much puts the students into tremendous academic pressure and not only academic, every non academic thing you do there is also turned into a competition.”

Meanwhile, students at IIT Madras were protesting last week against Sachin Kumar’s suicide and the continuing number of suicides at IIT. The students demanded the suspension of a PhD supervisor until an enquiry into Sachin’s suicide is complete. Sachin Kumar’s brother, Bhavesh Kumar, accused the guide of abetting his brother’s suicide and wrote a letter to IIT director V Kamakoti demanding an investigation into the death.

Students are also demanding the evaluation of mental health. Students’ organizations of IIT Madras, Chintabar, and others have called for an expert committee to study the various problems faced by students in these ‘Institutes of eminence’ and recognize the issue as requiring urgent attention from the authorities.

The Ministry of Education responded to a question raised by Su Venkatesan, MP from Madurai, in Loksabha, stating that 61 students had died by suicide in various CFTIs over the past 5 years. Of these cases, 33 suicides were reported from IITs, 24 cases from NITs, and 4 cases from IIMs. The Union government informed the parliament that over 19,000 students from SC, ST, and OBC communities dropped out of central universities, IITs, and IIMs in the last 5 years. From Central universities, 6901 OBC, 3596 SC, and 3949 ST students dropped out. From IITs, 2544 OBC, 1362 SC, and 538 ST students dropped out, while from IIMs, 133 OBC, 143 SC, and 90 ST students dropped out.

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