He was cheerful, bright and took up many student-centric initiatives, recall friends

Even as hundreds of students took the Joint Entrance Examination (JEE) on Sunday to get closer to their IIT dream, it was a sad day for the students on campus at IIT- Madras. Kuldeep Yadav, a second-year student of civil engineering, allegedly committed suicide on Sunday morning by hanging himself from a fan with a nylon rope.

The incident occurred in a ground floor room of the Narmada hostel at IIT-M, and was first noticed by Kuldeep's wing-mate. He and his friends immediately broke open the door and lowered the body. As Yadav struggled to breathe, he was taken to the IIT Hospital around 10 a.m. and then to Fortis Malar hospital in Adyar. However, he could not be saved and died around 2.20 p.m.

One of the students said: “The doctors, around noon, told us that there was still a chance, because his pulse was revived but it would take about six hours to know if he was actually out of danger.” The student was then taken to the ICU where he breathed his last.

The body was shifted to the Government Royapettah Hospital from where it was taken to the Kilpauk Medical College. A post mortem examination will be conducted on Monday morning.

Police suspect Kuldeep Yadav, the son of an Uttar Pradesh-based farmer Yashoda Singh, took the extreme step after a failed love affair. A note said to be written by Kuldeep was found by police in his room. “It is a romantic poem in Hindi written in the English script. It has words such as, Tere binameri haar. We had a language expert translate it for us,” said a police officer.

His mobile phone records are being scrutinised to see whom he had called last night. Kuldeep's brother has arrived in the city and his parents are on their way. Police said IIT- Madras had agreed to help the family take the body back home.

Originally from Etah in Uttar Pradesh, Kuldeep did his junior college at Aligarh Muslim University. Everything, according to his hostel mates was going right for him. “He had a girlfriend on campus but there were no problems between them. We always thought they were a happy couple,” said a friend. A bright student with a Cumulative Grade Point Average of 8.5, Kuldeep was keenly interested in his subjects and would often attend seminars out of his own initiative, according to a professor.

He was quite active in class, and would ask questions and upload material online to be shared by all, his friends recalled, adding that he was a sports buff too, interested in football and cricket. He was also the class representative and would take up many student-centric initiatives. “We didn't expect this from him, of all people. He was such a fun-loving person, cheerful all the time,” said a classmate.

“It was like any other Saturday night for us and he was a guy with no problematic habits. We thought he went for a movie yesterday, after he played board games with us,” the classmate added.

The rising number of suicides among students in colleges is, indeed, alarming. According to data provided by the Ministry of Human Resource Development, IITs reported two suicides in 2010, four in 2009 and five in 2008. In 2011, the figure was seven, three of which were by IIT-M students. To address the rising number of suicides among its students, IIT-M had set up a counselling unit with a tele-counselling facility to offer these services on an anonymous basis around the clock. The issue of suicides at the IITs, say sources, was on the agenda of the last few council meetings of the IIT.

Lakshmi Vijayakumar, psychiatrist and founder of SNEHA, a non-governmental organisation working in the area of suicide prevention said: “When such an incident happens in an IIT, it gets more attention because we see them as high performing institutes where there is an environment of high pressure.”

Except for IIT- Kharagpur that uses absolute scores, all other IITs evaluate their students on the basis of others' performance which does not foster shared learning and communication, she said, adding: “There is absolutely no need to put up results on open boards. This causes shame to a lot of students.”

The reason driving students to committing suicide may not always be related to academics. “Most students in IITs have slogged really hard to get there . When they come here, they feel there are many others better than them, which would not have been the case back home. Coping with those realities becomes difficult,” Dr. Vijayakumar said. Also, the issue of handling relationships is important. “Youngsters today are so used to getting everything instantly, right from their pizza to money, that they want the same in relationships too. Educational institutes should help them cope with the failures of everyday life.” she said.