Less than six months after she moved to Kota to prepare for the medical entrance exam NEET, a 16-year-old girl from Jharkhand's Ranchi allegedly hanged herself to death in her hostel room, police said.
According to official figures, Richa Sinha became the 23rd student who committed suicide in Kota this year, the highest ever for the country's coaching hub. Last year, the figure was 15.
"The police received information about Sinha's death around 10.30 p.m. on Tuesday from the private hospital where she was taken," said Amar Chand, an assistant sub-inspector at the Vigyan Nagar police station.
Mr. Chand added that no suicide note was recovered from her room and the police are investigating the reason behind the alleged suicide. The body has been sent to MBS Hospital for post-mortem.
Hostel warden Archana Rajawat said the student complained about being unwell last night and was given medicines. "Earlier, there were no signs of stress. She used to gel well with her friends, eat meals on time," she said.
Over 2.5 lakh students come to Kota annually to prepare for competitive exams such as the Joint Entrance Exam (JEE) for engineering and the National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test (NEET) for admission to medical colleges.
This year has seen the highest number of student suicides — 23 so far — with two ending their lives in a gap of a few hours on August 27.
Packed schedules, cut-throat competition, constant pressure to do better, the burden of parents' expectations and homesickness are among the common struggles of the students here, according to those working there.
With the record spike in such incidents, the administration has taken several steps including mandating installation of an anti-hanging device in fans and ordering coaching institutes to not take any exam for two months.
This is how the anti-hanging device works: If an object weighing more than 20 kg is hung from the fan, the spring attached to it expands, making it impossible for someone to commit suicide by this method. Simultaneously, a siren goes off.
"Anti-suicide nets" are also being installed in balconies and lobbies of hostels in Kota to prevent students from taking any extreme step.
Hostel owners said such steps to make their premises "suicide proof" are crucial to avoid tragic incidents.
Asked about whether such measures in hostels and PG accommodations can help address the larger issue of stress, Deputy Commissioner O.P. Bunkar told PTI, "We are taking several measures, right from routine psychological tests of children to effective communication with parents."
"However, measures like spring-loaded fans can be helpful in foiling any attempt being made in the heat of the moment by a student. Once that attempt is unsuccessful, students can be counselled and other measures can be implemented too," he said.