Secret sirens in Kota fans to curb suicides

Jaipur, March 30 : As the district administration grapples to check the suicide count in Kota – the country’s coaching hub, stakeholders are finding out ingenious ways to reduce the suicide rate.

Kota Hostel Association has hit upon the idea of fitting siren sensor and spring device in ceiling fans in its 1200 hostels, which would alert the students and hostel warden if anybody tries to commit suicide.

In 2016, Kota reported 17 suicides, most by hanging from ceiling fans.

Kota Hostel Association’s founder president Manish Jain told Rajasthan Post that around 22 hostel rooms have already been fitted with such devices in the ceiling fans.

The association had been working on the device for more than a year now. Jain said : “The secret spring hooked to the ceiling fan, would be able to bear of weight of only 20 kg. If anybody more than 20 kg tries to hang form the fan, the spring will expand and come down and the alarm sensor would blare out, alerting the authorities. Each of the device cost is around Rs 250. And a company from Gujarat is supplying the device.”

Jain said the idea is to provide secure and safe environment for the students who come to study in Kota.

Installing CCTV cameras, biometric attendance, packed and secure balconies, common gates in the hostel colonies which would be monitored and locked with guards are being made mandatory in Kota.

Biometric machines have already been installed in 80-90 hostels in several areas of the city.

Kota administration has already taken various steps to de-stress students and to handle the high level of pressure, including meditation, a day out, music, concerts, counselling helplines and others.

Kota administration also initiated the Peer Group Evaluation Methodology to keep a check on student depression.

The idea is to form groups of students numbering 15 to 20 in each class and make them familiar with each other and hold group activities, so that each student gets to know the other well and also each other’s general disposition towards life.

With the group meeting every 10 to 15 days, the students would talk to each other about how they spent their time in the intervening period, apart from the fun activities associated with the group. Kota District Collector Ravi Kumar Surpur said : “Based on the response of every member, rest of group members would evaluate the other, which can be a fundamental tool to identify variant behavior and traits that need urgent attention. So the evaluation can be student’s general temperament towards life. Like it can vary from Cheerful, Friendly, Silent, Talkative, Serious, Emotional, Withdrawn and others. I am hoping this method is going to be a game changer. It is an attempt to give an organized platform to student to express themselves and identify a student who may be depressed and disinterested towards life early and get him counselled before he takes the extreme step.”

About the installing of new device in ceiling fans, Surpur said : “Although it is a not systematic measure but still we should not discourage it. Ideally we should try reduce stress and depression amongst students. But if all stakeholders like hostel Association are chipping in with their innovative methods, we should only encourage them.”

Meanwhile, a four-member tem of Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) is in Kota and studying the causes that are leading to suicides. The team will study the whole eco-system of the coaching hub from classrooms to hostels.

Surpur said TISS is expected to complete ths study in 90 days and will table the report before the government. On the basis of the report, more guidelines and programmes will be prepared to distress the students.

Despite these measures, Kota witnessed 26 student suicides in 2013, 14 in 2014 and 30 in 2015 and 17 in 2016.

Parents have often blamed the suicides on stress, the punishing schedule of long hours of study and preparatory exams, and lack of counselling.

Kota get around 1.75 lakh students every year to prepare for the toughest entrance exams the IIT and NEET (Medical) of the country here.

Counsellors say stress is understandable, because of the rigorous routine which starts at 6 am and ends not before 8 pm. Also these coaching institutes charge anything between Rs 70,000 and Rs 1.5 lakh every year from students, which plays on students’ mind.

Officials at Kota coaching institutes argue that despite the high costs, students turning every year at Kota is increasing.

A blog on Resonance, one of the Kota’s top coaching institute says the reason for flocking to Kota is a combination of factors that makes this education hub a mandatory stopover for those chasing a seat in top-notch engineering and medical courses. From a rigorous preparation format and better faculty to an unwavering focus on core subjects, all attributes that many find missing in the conventional education system available back home.

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