Sunday, December 3, 2023

Kota Student Suicides: Who Is Responsible?

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It is a heart-rending statistics. In the year 2015, a total of 30 students attending coaching classes in Kota, Rajasthan, committed suicide, apparently unable to cope with the pressure of studies.

The statistics has so many factors converging to lead to it, that it is difficult to say which of the factors is more important. Is it pressure of the studies themselves? Or pressure of parental expectations? Are Indian parents being too demanding when they expect their children to become doctors/engineers only, with no other career choices? Or fear of failure? Or inability to cope where cream of the North Indian students gather to prepare for the entrance examinations of premier Engineering and Medical collages of the country? Why are the students at Kota; away from the emotional support and watchfulness of their families? How are the students aged 16-18 years, when human beings are the most exuberant, full of life, and full of hope; cracking up to the point of taking their own lives?

Easiest and, of course, the commonest, explanation given by media and the “experts” is that the Indian parents are pushing the children over the age, to fulfil their own dreams/to keep their status in the society intact. But what is never asked is why the country has an economy in which success/failure in just one examination decides the life course of a person. And why the country’s education system is so broken that the students need to go to Kota, away from their families, to prepare for that one examination.

We all have to earn our living. To earn our living, we need to do some work for which somebody else is ready to pay, or to produce something which others are ready to buy, or to trade something produced by somebody but needed by somebody else. The work may involve working for the latter two categories of people. The work may be an activity involving modification of physical objects/environment, or intangibles like writing, painting, acting, singing; that is, structuring others’ time and getting paid for it. The education equips us with the skills which are needed to be able to work. Some skills are more in demand and rarer to get and costlier to acquire, and hence get paid more. Some skills lead to readily available well defined and well paid jobs in organised sectors. Others require many years of initial struggle during which wages are low, even non-existent, and the person has to depend on the parents/working spouse. Engineering and medicine are the two professions which have maximum numbers of better paying jobs in the organised sector, and also in the government. Over all, many other professions may ultimately lead to even higher total life time earnings, but the degree of certainty that the engineering and medicine offer immediately after completion of the education makes these two streams of education most sought after.

Even the poorest of the countries need some engineers and doctors. By the very nature of their skills, they get better wages than others immediately after completing education. But there is only a limited numbers of engineers and doctors a society needs. Even the number that is needed is not known to anybody, nor it is feasible to know. The number gets limited by the seats available in the colleges in the country, and by the numbers that actually get jobs after completing the education. Placements after completing the course at a college decide how more that college is sought after by the students. Since the colleges which lead to good jobs are limited, and will always remain limited, so there would always be very large number of aspirants competing for very few seats. And this is where coaching classes step in. Coaching classes have also become important because school education in India has collapsed. Teachers do not teach in the school classes, they expect that students will take tuitions. What was till a couple of decades ago an exception (only very weak students used to go for tuitions) has become a norm. Almost the whole class attends private tuitions after school hours.

The coaching institutes in Kota have come up as the best tuition classes. They have met the need created by the collapse of our school system. Therefore, all the bright students from North India converge on Kota to slog for two years. Parents expect that the child would land into one of the top colleges of India, securing a good life for the rest of his life. But so do all the parents, and as the children realise that in Kota itself there are more students, equally bright, than the seats in all the colleges of India, they start feeling the pressure. And away from the parents and family, many give up on life itself, and some end up taking their own lives. Children in the present generation of India do not grow up in joint family and with grandparents. So they do not grow up with the rough and tumble of life that was the norm till one generation ago. So many grow up to be emotionally weak and psychically fragile.

So what is to blame for the student suicides of Kota?

Medicine and engineering have been the best pathways for upward social mobility for the last two centuries, in addition to military. But as industrialisation took place, division of labour became more and more complex, and in the industrialised societies of the west, number of career options is very large, and almost every occupation ensures a decent life. The gap between academic failure and success is not much in an industrial society. But in a society like India, where industrialisation is low, while jobs in government, medicine, and engineering are a ticket to a lifetime of riches and security, those left out have to struggle to eke out a living.

So the Indian Left is responsible for the student suicides in Kota. It has suffocated industrialisation through socialist policies of the government, and thus created a situation in which few thousand jobs in government, engineering, and medicine ensure a great life, leaving few options for those who get left out. Division of labour has not taken place in India to the extent that all occupations become well paying, nor are there enough industrialisation so that the society could have become wealthy, supporting more authors, painters, dress designers, interior decorators, singers, dancers, people involved in other performing arts, and other non-conventional, non-mainstream professions.

All parents want to equip their children with the capacity to earn their livelihood. And in a society like ours, with few options, parents also have seen consequences of failure, of being left out. And in any case, all children need some parental pressure even to start schooling, and then continue at it. In some case, it just becomes too much. How much is too much is difficult to know for any parent, as each person is mentally tough to varying degrees. So blaming parents for the unfortunate and tragic cases of student suicide may look logical, but it is not correct. Blame lies with the Indian Left that has created a non-industrialised society with a huge government apparatus administering a socialist state, making government officers demi-gods, and leaving rest of the population in abject poverty. Medicine and engineering lead to the second best career choices, and also the last career choices, in India. So it is natural for the parents to push that extra to make children slog some more.

The Leftists ruling India are coming up with all sorts of solutions to the situation. Sometime they scrap board examinations, sometime they make school marks count toward merit list for the admission to medical and engineering collages. They even talk of banning coaching classes. One Minister for Human Resources Development even asked the Indian Institutes of Technology, the most sought after colleges, to set “easier” papers, as if that would ease the competition itself. After all it is the competition which is tough, not the papers. They set up helplines to counsel students. They appeal to parents to go easy on their children. Articles appear in media castigating Indian parents for driving their children too much. That is, the Leftists are doing everything except that which will truly ease the competition. And that is dismantling of socialism.

If socialism is completely scarped, and free market economy is adopted, India will get industrialised, and there will be huge division of labour. There will be large number of equally well paying professions, professions which at the present do not even exist. Gap between failure and success will not be the gap between death and life. Even the lowest paying jobs will pay enough for a decent life.  The desperation to get into medicine/engineering will ebb. And the children will not be driven to take their own lives.

With socialism dismantled, corruption will disappear from India, and so the teachers will again start teaching in the schools, and the coaching classes will disappear. Students will not gather in Kota to be in a pressure cooker like situation. They will stay with their parents, with their siblings, with the natural support system of a child. The parents will have their savings intact, and the children will have some Capital to strike out on his own, becoming an entrepreneur, instead of an employee. Choices of professions will increase to a scale unimaginable now.

Therefore, the only way to prevent student suicides at Kota is to go for the free market economy. Rest all measures are band-aids, diversions, buying of time, kicking the can down the road; and lead to coming back of the problem in even more a virulent form.

(To read similar past articles, click on the titles below:-Ed)

1. The Great Indian Education Loot

2. Engineers With Rs 10000 per month Salary, Farmer Suicides, Land Acquisition Bill, And Future Of India

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