New Delhi- In response to a question regarding suicides of SC/ST students over the last three years, Abbaiah Narayanaswamy, Union Minister of State for Social Justice and Empowerment, informed the parliament on Tuesday, December 5th, that more than 35,000 student suicides were recorded in India from 2019 to 2021. "(There is) no information regarding the number of SC/ST students who committed suicides due to social discrimination in the country," Abbaiah Narayanaswamy said in parliament.
The three-year data depicts an alarming picture as there has been a constant increase in the number of suicides from 2019 to 2021. According to the data, the number of student suicides increased from 10,335 in 2019 to 12,526 in 2020 and 13,089 in 2021.
The Minister mentioned that the government has taken several measures to prevent the suicide of SC/ST students. He stated that the Department of Higher Education has established counselling cells and various mechanisms such as SC/ST students' cells, equal opportunity cells, students' grievance cells, students' grievance committees, and liaison officers in educational institutions across the country. The Protection of Civil Rights (PCR) Act, 1955, which prescribes punishment for enforcing any disability arising from the practice of 'untouchability,' and the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989, are in force to prevent the commission of offenses of atrocities against members, including students, of SCs and STs.
Earlier, the NCRB (National Crime Records Bureau) data depicted a stark picture, reporting a 70% increase in student suicide cases compared to the figure of 7,696 in 2011. In 2021, 13,089 people committed suicide. According to the report, "failure of examination" was responsible for suicides in 1,673 cases.
It is believed that these suicide figures will only get murkier if the cases this year are taken into account. In Kota, often called the hub of coaching centers in India, there has been a perceptible increase in the number of suicides, with 26 students committing suicide till September, the highest number since 20 cases of suicides in 2015.
Although the government did not reveal the figures on the number of SC/ST students who commit suicide, there is a wide consensus that most of these students belong to the SC/ST category. The Mooknayak spoke to a student associated with the student outfit Ambedkar Phule Periyar Study Circle; he said that if we extrapolate based on the number of suicides committed in IIT in the past few years, we can say that more than 50% of the students belong to the SC/ST category.
In December 2021, the government told Lok Sabha that 122 students enrolled in higher educational institutes of the central government had committed suicide between 2014 and 2021, of which 24 belonged to the SC community, three were STs, and 41 were OBCs, meaning that more than 50% of the students belonged to marginalized communities. Earlier this year, on February 11, Darshan Solanki, a Scheduled Caste student from Gujarat, committed suicide at IIT Mumbai; his father alleged that he was being harassed at the institute because of his caste, and his fellow students used to inquire about his JEE rank. Similarly, IIT Madras, Hyderabad, and Delhi also witnessed suicides of students belonging to marginalized communities.
The lack of data with the government regarding the suicides of SC/ST students is also likely to hamper the policies it makes to prevent suicides of students belonging to marginalized groups.