Disclaimer: The article contains references to suicide. Reader discretion is advised.
The sad demise of a resident of Mahanadi hostel, allegedly by suicide, took place on the afternoon of February 13th. According to sources, the EE research scholar hadn’t worked in or visited his lab for a couple of days. His neighbours, who also happened to be his lab partners, tried to contact him and intimated the authorities when he did not respond. Upon discovery, institute security immediately informed the hospital and the police. A note has also been found.
In a separate incident on the same day, a resident of Mandakini hostel attempted suicide. According to his peers, the student had sought counseling through MiTr the day prior and was assigned a student counselor as the first level of counseling. The student was rescued and is recovering at a private hospital in Chennai.
Following these two incidents, students took to the streets to participate in a large sit-in protest organised at Gajendra Circle from the night of the 13th to the morning of the 14th. The protest sought to address the institutional problems in the existing mental health structures along with the specific difficulties faced by research scholars relating to PIs/guides. Students also demanded transparency from the administration, especially considering that student representatives were made aware of the suicide through unofficial sources. The DoSt, CSO, CCW and Registrar were present at the protest as well at various times of the night to attend to the issues put forth. Eventually, it was announced that the Director would address the students at 7AM.
The 14th of February was declared a non-instructional day.
The Director of the institute, Dr. Kamakoti, addressed the students on the 14th at 7AM. Based on demands from the student groups, a ten point action plan was put forth:
- Wardens would visit the hostel in their charge every day for at least half an hour during a specified time slot. Any issue may be raised directly during that time.
- The pharmacy in the institute hospital shall operate 24*7. Steps will be taken to ensure the entire hospital will run 24*7 in the near future. A pharmacy shall be set up in the hostel zone that would offer basic prescription drugs.
- All students can avail of five days of leave a year for co-curricular and extra-curricular activities. This point sought to address the isolation of research scholars from the co-curricular and extracurricular spheres of the institute.
- An external committee supervised by the Director shall be appointed to look into the cause of delay in graduation for PhD / MS students who are 6 years/ 3 years into their program.
- The Director will visit two hostels every 15 days to ensure working facilities and a robust grievance redressal system.
- The escalation matrix for any grievance has been reduced to 10 days; any issue that has remained unresolved for 10 days may be escalated to the Director.
- Mess food: Following the protest, the Director was invited to eat breakfast at a mess. The Director stated that food served was not up to standards and instructed CCW to look into it.
- The Senate shall meet to discuss the proposition of reducing the attendance criteria to 75%.
- An external committee shall be invited to monitor all aspects of student life, including academics, governance, nutrition and mental health and wellness.
- An open house shall be arranged within two weeks, in which any member of the GSB will be allowed to question the Director.
T5E reached out to the DoSt for comment. The matter is currently being investigated by the police and there has been no update as of the 16th of February. With regards to the lack of transparency on the matter, DoSt stated that there wasn’t a set protocol for notifying student representatives of such incidents, but they are informed based on a mutual understanding. He added that the 13th of February was a challenging day considering the nature and timing of both incidents and in the chaos, the student representatives could not be informed immediately. Additionally, once the police take charge of the case and the room, it is no longer something the administration can control.
The article will be updated as and when T5E receives information.
The Mandakini resident is currently recovering at a private hospital in Chennai. A donation drive has been arranged to help their family with medical expenses. Please refer to the Institute help mail circulated on February 15th.
We, at T5E, extend our condolences and solidarity to the affected students and their friends and family in these trying times. We urge students to reach out for help immediately if they find themselves in difficult situations.
04422578521 (Wellness Centre 9-5PM),
04448136222 (YourDost 24/7),
04422579999 (Security, 24/7),
04422578888 (Hospital, 24/7)
Sneha India foundation
+91 044-24640050 | 24 Hours | Monday to Sunday
Jeevan Suicide Prevention Hotline
+91 044 2656 4444