A first year student T. Abinath of Perambalur, studying in Sairam Engineering College in West Tambaram, was found dead in a well on the college campus here on Friday.
The college authorities claimed that the student had committed suicide because he did not want to study engineering and was forced into it by his parents. “Abinath had dreams of becoming a doctor and was a bright boy. Since he was unable to study medicine, he was disappointed. He had a few arrears in his first semester. He was stressed and had taken this unfortunate decision. It is sad. I don’t know how the college management can be held responsible,” said Saiprakash Leo Muthu, CEO, Sairam Group of Institutions.
He appealed to the people not to believe the rumours circulating on social media.
The incident comes barely months after the students of the college protested against the management alleging that they were being subjected to harsh, ultra-conservative rules. The students expressed doubts over the management’s version of Abinath’s death.
“The college hostel is run by campus director Balu, who has a reputation for ill-treating and manhandling students. Also, we weren’t told what had happened when we were asked to leave. The management told us that there was an inspection from Anna University. Also, some of us were told that there was a bomb scare. We have no faith in the college management,” said a second year student on condition of anonymity.
P. Gautham, one of the victim’s roommates, claimed that Abinath was visibly upset since Thursday night after the warden had questioned him for leaving the premises without permission a couple of days ago.
“After the study hour early on Friday, he did not turn up for breakfast. Around 8.45 a.m., we informed the warden,” he said.
Enquiries revealed that there were seven wells on the campus that were covered with iron mesh. The college authorities had decided to replace the mesh with a more secure cover and the process was already complete in a few wells. Since students are not allowed to use mobile phones in the college, it is not clear whether the victim made any calls or sent messages on Friday.
Abinath’s parents arrived late on Friday and were taken to the Kundrathur police station, where a case was registered about the boy’s death. College authorities ruled out the possibility of an accidental fall into the well as it was located in a remote place where students hardly ventured.
On reports that Abinath had applied for transfer certificate and the management refused to issue the same insisting on payment of fees for four years, Mr. Saiprakash said last year alone TCs were issued to 48 students from the engineering college on request. “We retain the first year tuition fee only. There is no question of demanding or retaining any other fee when a student seeks TC,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Anna University Registrar S. Ganesan, said, “We have asked the college to submit a detailed report on the case. We will also send a committee to the college to get to the bottom of the matter. We will take this up very seriously.”
A. Ilayaperumal, Director, Students Affairs Committee at the university earlier mediated between the protesting students and the college management. “As far as Anna University is concerned, we are responsible for the academic aspects of our affiliated colleges such as conducting examinations, ensuring that the affiliated college has adequate facilities and so on. We cannot really force a college to change its ‘social rules’. However, we believe that students must be relaxed and have an amiable atmosphere while pursuing their studies,” he said.
Meanwhile, a group of students studying in Sairam Engineering College have threatened to launch a strike against the college management.
The Sneha Suicide Prevention Centre helplines are 044-24640050, 24640060 and the government’s helpline is 104.