What is wrong with India’s higher education system? IIT-M research scholar dies by suicide

Sachin Kumar Jain was found hanging in his rented accommodation, which he shared with two other researchers.

ByVinodh Arulappan

Published Apr 01, 2023 | 2:51 PM Updated Apr 01, 2023 | 2:51 PM

There are reports of at least nine students dying by suicide following the release of the Inter exam results. (Wikimedia Commons)

Something is wrong with India’s higher education system.

An IIT-Madras research scholar died by suicide on Friday, 31 March. Sachin Kumar Jain of West Bengal was the  third student of the premier institute to take the extreme step in two months.

The 31-year-old was living with two other researchers, Devkush and Deveraj — both aged 28 — in a rented accommodation at Velachery in south Chennai, where he was found hanging.

Jain was a research scholar in the institute’s Mechanical Engineering Department.

The police said Jain had been sharing the rented accommodation with the two other research scholars for the past three months.

Also read: Suicides by students are becoming common: CJI

What happened on Friday?

On Friday morning, all three had left for the institute as usual. Jain, however, returned early.

In the afternoon, he posted a status message on his WhatsApp: “I am not good enough. I am sorry”. Sensing something amiss, his roommates rushed to the residence and found Jain hanging.

The roommates called for medical assistance and also alerted the police. Jain was rushed to a hospital, where he was declared “dead on arrival”.

The Velachery police registered a case under Section 174 of the Criminal Procedure Code and shifted the body to for a post-mortem examination.

“No suicide note was found,” a police officer attached to the Velachery station said. The police have sent Jain’s mobile phone for a detailed analysis.

“We are investigating whether he was under pressure from the faculty. We also investigated his friends and roommates,” the officer told the South First.

His body was handed over to his parents on Saturday, 1 April.

Also read: Second student suicide case in Nizamabad Medical College

IIT issues condolence

Expressing shock over the researcher’s death, IIT-Madras said the death of “a student with an exemplary academic and research record is a big loss to the research community”.

The institute requested all to respect the privacy of Jain’s family. “The Institute expresses its heartfelt condolences and shares the grief of the friends and family of the deceased student. May the departed soul rest in peace,” IIT-Madras said in a statement.

Three deaths in two months

A fortnight ago, 20-year-old B.Tech student Pushpak SriSai, a native of Andhra Pradesh, committed suicide in his hostel room.

It was Valentine’s Day when Stephen Sunny, a research scholar from Maharashtra, killed himself. The  same day,  14 February, another student was admitted to the hospital in a critical condition after a suicide bid.

Earlier, IIT-Madras constituted an Internal Inquiry Committee, which includes elected student representatives, to look into the suicides of students.

In a statement, the IIT Madras management said: “Post-Covid has been a challenging environment and the Institute has been endeavoring to improve and sustain the well-being of the students/scholars, faculty and staff on campus while constantly evaluating the various support systems in place.”

(If you need support or know someone who has suicidal thoughts, please reach out to your nearest mental health specialist or can contact the helpline numbers of suicide prevention organizations that can offer emotional support to individuals and families. Tamil Nadu State health department’s suicide helpline: 104 Sneha Suicide Prevention Centre – 044-24640050 Vandrevala foundation for mental health – 999966555)