New Delhi: Isolated living spaces, lack of common hangout zones combined with academic pressure appear to be the deadly cocktail contributing to the student suicides at the IIT-Hyderabad campus this year.
Since the beginning of 2019, three students have killed themselves, the latest being the death of the 20-year-old undergraduate student Pichikala Siddharth, who jumped off a building Tuesday.
Students at the institute told ThePrint that they recently shifted to a new campus that lacks common hangout zones and entertainment facilities. Even the accommodation that has been provided to them on campus makes them isolated, they said.
The new campus is at Kandi, nearly two hours from Hyderabad city.
“The new campus has single rooms for students that are designed according to international standards, providing a lot of space and privacy. In a different scenario, this would be a great thing but one must understand that Indian kids are not used to living by themselves and that kind of space might prove negative,” said a PhD student at IIT-Hyderabad, who is actively involved in the administration’s efforts to prevent student suicides.
“Since this is a new campus, students do not even have avenues for entertainment and common hang-out zones. In the absence of someone to talk to…students tend to get depressed,” he added.
“In the older campus, if one got out of their room, they would bump into at least four people. Here it is difficult to find people around.”
A student of B.Tech third year ThePrint spoke to, agreed. “We cannot complain much since it is a new campus but it does lack common hangout zones and places where students can interact,” he said. “For new students, this does get depressing.”
Worried administration steps in
The suicides have worried the administration and the student community alike and the institute is now trying to take proactive steps to prevent them.
IIT-Hyderabad director, B.S. Murthy, Wednesday morning shared an email with students, including the post graduate and PhD aspirants, seeking suggestions to make the campus a more student-friendly place.
“The director has invited inputs from students, especially PhD students about making the campus a more interactive place for students,” one of the students who received the email told ThePrint.
“The latest suicide incident has shattered everyone on campus and there is a serious intent to change the environment.”
The student added that there is a plan to launch a “mentor programme”, under which, one faculty member will mentor three to four students and address all the issues that they have, personal as well as those related to academics.
In suicide notes, mention of academic pressure, depression
In all the three suicides, students have mentioned issues such as academic pressure, peer-pressure and depression.
The first victim was M. Anirudh, a third-year mechanical and aerospace engineering student who committed suicide on 31 January.
In July this year, Mark Andrew Charles, a native of Varanasi district in Uttar Pradesh killed himself. In his suicide note that he wrote in a diary, Mark said he felt the world does not treat well those who do not succeed in life. He wrote that he was “feeling empty but not sad”.
According to one of his close friends, he was a good student but depressed because of his grades.
Pichikala Siddharth, who jumped off a building Tuesday, wrote that “life was depressing” for him.
A masters student who did not wish to be named told ThePrint that attitude of the faculty also contributed in making students lose hope.
“I have not seen this with our faculty but at the undergraduate level, some faculty members are very harsh with students,” the student said. “They tell them that they are good for nothing… Students also think Mark faced harassment from his faculty members and that made him depressed.”
ThePrint approached IIT-Hyderabad via email sent a text and called director Murthy, but there was no response until the time of publishing this copy.
On Tuesday, however, the institute had released a note expressing grief over the death of Pichikala Siddharth.