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On 11th July 2017, a Delhi High Court bench comprising Justices Siddharth Mridul and Najmi Waziri made an acute oral observation on the failure of the Indian education system as a whole, while hearing the Supreme Court plea initiated in September 2016, regarding Sushant Rohilla’s alleged suicide. On the matter, which was transferred to the Delhi HC in March 2017, the bench made a scathing remark: “It (the education system) is completely dehumanised. It is a machine. The human element has been completely taken out. The contact between teacher and student is perfunctory… We seem to be mass producing clones… You must conform at all costs, else retribution is swift.”

The bench also remarked directly upon Amity Law University’s “element of callousness” in handling the sensitive issue, as Rohilla was a third-year student there, barred from sitting in the semester examinations due to low attendance. “The student reached out to you. He cried out for help. But did you respond?” the court asked of the varsity, which continued to defend its attendance norms as a basic system of checks and balances meant to establish discipline. This system, however, is not above offering assistance to its students and accommodating improvements where necessary, Amity also claimed. The varsity is affiliated to Guru Gobind Singh Indraprastha University (GGSIPU), which was given the  last chance to file an affidavit recording its stance on the subject.

Sushant Rohilla’s classmates took to social media with a fervour post his death, alleging his harassment and charging the teachers with apathy and negligence. So far, the outrage fuelled online has caused two of the professors to resign. Most significantly, it was a letter written by Raghav Sharma, another final year student of Amity and a close friend of Rohilla, to the then CJI TS Thakur, which caused this PIL to be instituted in court. In the letter, Sharma puts the blame squarely upon the shoulders of the Amity authorities, citing reasons including medical issues which first prevented Rohilla from attending the classes, leading to his lack of attendance, then a severe depression at being barred from the exams, and all of it culminating in a suicide by hanging, at his own house on 10th August 2016.

The court appointed amicus curiae has intervened after examining a “shocking” status report filed by the Delhi Police, which not only did not consider the examination of any person necessary with regard to the complaint but also insinuated that the suicide note may not have been written by Rohilla himself. Unconvinced, the court has asked for a transfer of the “compromised” investigation, to be monitored by the Deputy Commissioner of Police (South Delhi). The DCP must now file a detailed probe report before the next hearing on 8th August 2017.

So far, all the elements in the case seem to be working against Amity and the varsity’s officials involved. But most importantly, the court’s statement takes into account what the current education system and inhumane red-tapism tend to leave out—the worth of a student’s life. It is an essential point raised, and one which directly concerns all students pursuing or hoping to pursue a higher education in the country. Minimum attendance as a pre-requisite for marks and entry to exam halls has been a matter of much discontent and protests in the last few years in the University of Delhi (DU) too, with ECA and Sports quota students especially crying foul. Those against the mandate argue about the injustice of having to sit in class, even when unable to, for reasons ranging from serious health issues to a simple lack of interest in certain lectures. University students, after all, are responsible adults in the making. Why must they be robbed of the autonomy to choose and to make the simple decision of which classes to attend, and which to skip out? Only time will tell what the verdict on Rohilla’s case shall be, yet the court has made a vital statement in the initial hearing itself, giving hopes to the entire student community.

Image credits: Hindustan Times

 

Deepannita Misra

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A 19 year old student, who was pursuing B.Com (Hons.), via a correspondence course from the University of Delhi, was found hanging from a ceiling fan at her Krishna Nagar  residence on Wednesday. What was more shocking was that she had left a note on a table  which mentioned that the reason for her taking such extreme steps were in a video message on her mobile phone.

The body of the student was found by her father, who had just returned from work at around 11: 45 PM. On examining the video message it was found that she had been deeply frustrated with a group of five people, among which trio of two brothers and a sister who were their neighbors had been regularly harassing and stalking herher. She has named them in the video.The brothers identified as, Joginder and Sonu often passed lewd comments and taunted her with obscene gestures. The others would also join in the act. The duo including their sister had beaten her and her mother in August last year after a complaint was lodged for harassment against the families living in their neighborhood. The brothers were arrested then but were let out on bail.

As a part of initial investigations, it was found out that the deceased was severely depressed after her fiance had turned down their marriage, due to the inability of their family to provide him with a car. Her fiance was detained under the charges of abatement to suicide. Although when the video was viewed, a case was registered under the same charges yet no one was arrested.

The most shocking part of the video was that she mentioned that she held no one responsible inspite of mentioning names of people who were harassing her. As told to newspapers,DCP East Ajay Kumar said, “The student’s family was not on good terms with the neighbors. They had had several disagreements earlier. Investigation is on.”


-Kriti Buddhiraja

A final year student of Economics at St Stephen’s College, Upasana Sahu, was found hanging by the ceiling fan in her east Delhi residence last Thursday. She was rushed to Lal Bahadur Shastri Hospital, where she was declared brought dead. In a three-page long suicide note she apologized to her parents, and held herself solely responsible for her death.

Upasana had limited eyesight, and had taken admission into the college through the quota for disabled students. Although she was never an outstanding student, she maintained a fairly good academic record and participated in other department activities as well. In fact, she had already been placed at Infosys by the College’s placement cell.

However, failure in the university examinations came as a rude shock to her, following which she ended her life. Her distraught parents regretted that she didn’t speak to them before taking this drastic step, for that would have perhaps saved her.

That Upasana was reduced to such a miserable situation is a grave reflection on the kind of premium our society places on a single system of evaluation.

What is even more appalling is the near absence of efforts to deal with the problem. Even though there are a fair number of counselors at colleges and otherwise, little is being done to address the causative agent of the problem. Much needs to be done to make education a more engaging experience, and not one that is exclusively result-oriented. Internal assessment is a step in this direction, but clearly not enough.

Further, the government needs to invest in expansion of infrastructure, in order to ease the pressure off students and make education a more enjoyable affair.