Kota Suicides: Supreme Court blaming parents is compounding the problem, says petitioner

The Mumbai doctor’s PIL had sought regulation of NEET, JEE coaching centres. SC said parents’ expectations drive students to suicide.

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The petitioner now plans to submit a representation to the ministry of education. (Image Source: Wikimedia Commons)The petitioner now plans to submit a representation to the ministry of education. (Image Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Sheena Sachdeva | November 25, 2023 | 05:35 PM IST

NEW DELHI: In October, Mumbai doctor Aniruddha Narayan Malpani filed a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) in the Supreme Court seeking directions for the regulation of NEET, JEE and other coaching centres to control their mushrooming and malpractices. He was prompted by the sharp spike in student suicides in the coaching hub, Rajasthan’s Kota, this year. The SC, while hearing the case last week, said it is the parents’ high expectations and not the coaching centres that is pushing youths to take the extreme step.

Malpani ultimately withdrew his petition after the court refused to interfere in the matter. The Supreme Court heard the PIL on November 20. According to reports, the bench of Justices Sanjiv Khanna and SVN Bhatti stated, “Pressure and high expectations from parents are pushing students preparing for competitive exams to take their own lives.”

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Malpani disagrees with the court’s observation. “These tuition classes spend so much money on advertising which misleads the majority of parents. They are not able to think critically and are taken for a ride. And the court blaming the parents is just compounding the problem,” he told Careers360.

Commercial coaching classes exist not to impart education but to make money, he added. Getting admission in these coaching classes is also competitive. “Parents enrol their children in these coaching institutes by taking education loans or selling off their lands, and then they get into debt. If the government is willing, there can be solutions,” added Malpani.

According to The Quint, the bench also said, “Suicides are not happening because of the coaching institutes. They happen because the children cannot meet the expectations of their parents. The number of deaths could be much higher”.

According to National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) data, 13,000 students died by suicide in 2021 with a 27% rise in student suicides over 2016-2021. In 2023 alone, 26 students have taken their own lives in Kota, most of them preparing for the National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET UG) for admission in medical colleges or the Joint Entrance Examination (JEE) Main and Advanced for engineering.

Also Read | Kota Suicides: ‘Students who come for JEE, NEET preparation become extremely unempathetic’

JEE, NEET Coaching: Fees, goals

According to advocate Mohini Priya, counsel for the petitioner, Malapani filed the PIL after noting the rising number of student suicides in Kota, Rajasthan, and how coaching institutes mislead students. This is a problem not just in Kota, but many other states and cities. There are no guidelines or laws to regulate these institutes.

Priya said: “This issue is not just in Rajasthan but in Tamil Nadu, Hyderabad, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and Delhi, wherever coaching centres for entrance examinations like JEE and NEET are mushrooming. Students in these institutes have several mental health hazards too. But there are no regulations for them in terms of teacher-student ratio or syllabus and goals, which lead to unrealistic targets for students.

“We wanted the apex court to provide some guidelines so that eventually all the state governments come up with their respective set of rules to regulate these coaching institutes,” Priya added.

Guidelines telling the institutes to charge only on a quarterly or monthly basis will put the students at liberty to opt out of the courses, in case they don’t like it. “This will give the kid freedom. Currently, they pay in advance while enrolling and the institute and teachers don’t care. Students get trapped and coaching institutes make money,” stated Malpani.

Some accountability will keep them on their toes. “Through this competition, the institutes will also improve and students will benefit. We have to see why these tuition classes are toxic,” he added.

In Rajasthan, Ashok Gehlot’s Congress government has formulated guidelines to regulate coaching institutes in the state, which include no admission of students before Class 9, not making the results of routine tests public and mandatory training of teachers among others.

Coaching Centres: Previous bills

In the past, many bills have been introduced in parliament to regulate coaching centres but none were enacted into law. The first bill was The Private Coaching Centres Regulatory Board Bill, 2016. The bill proposed to constitute a Private Coaching Centres Regulatory Board that would regulate the functioning of private coaching centres. However, it wasn’t passed.

Later in 2019, another bill titled The Pre-examination Coaching Centres Regulatory Authority Bill, 2019 was introduced in parliament but wasn't passed either. It proposed to constitute a pre-examination coaching centres regulatory authority.

“The state of Rajasthan, because of the Kota incidents, have come up with guidelines but other states will also have to toe the line. Through this PIL, we wanted the Supreme Court to issue some urgent direction in this regard,” the lawyer said.

The petitioner now plans to submit a representation to the ministry of education in this regard.

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