The hostel warden, mess workers and tiffin service providers have been given the duty of checking on the students they meet on a regular basis for any signs of mental stress by the Kota police department amid the rise of suicide cases in the city. A large number of students live in hostels and paying guest accommodations in the city for focused preparation for various entrance exams.
What is the 'Darwaze pe dastak' campaign?
The Kota police have urged the mess workers and tiffin providers to report if a student is repetitively absent from the mess or anyone's tiffin is found uneaten. The hostel wardens are asked to participate in the 'darwaze pe dastak' or knock the door campaign to keep checking on the students for routine monitoring.
Chandrasheel Thakur, ASP, Kota told PTI, "We have launched a campaign called 'Darwaze pe dastak' where we are encouraging wardens to make it a routine to knock on each students' door at around 11 pm, ask them if they are okay, notice their activities, and keep a vigil just to ensure that there are no signs of stress, depression or abnormal activity."
He also added, "After coaching, the students spend maximum time in hostels, and hence wardens should be the first one to notice the signs."
"The idea is to detect these early signs. If any student is repetitively missing classes or skipping meals, there has to be something. We want to identify these children, get them counselled before they get pushed to the brim. We have launched a dedicated number on which wardens, mess workers and tiffin providers can give us this information," he added.
What are the wardens saying?
Naveen Mittal who is the president of the Kota Hostel Association said there are 3,500 hostels and 25,000 paying guest (PG) accommodations in Kota.
Garima Singh who is a warden at the Amratingali Girls Residency said she knocks on the doors of children regularly. She reportedly said, “The idea is not to disturb them, but to keep a check if they are fine. If someone is sleeping for unusual hours, I discuss with them if they are just tired or unwell. I check their mess logbooks too. If someone has not eaten meals in the mess, I ask if he or she did not like the food or is it because of some stress."
Gagendra Soni, warden of a boys hostel said, “Some boys opt for tiffin service rather than mess food. We notice sometimes that the tiffin is lying outside the room. We take it very seriously now and try to strike a conversation."
In a desperate move, the authorities had recently ordered hostels to install a spring device on ceiling fans to stop students from taking their lives.
Situation in Kota
Over 2.5 lakh students move 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.
The year 2023 saw the highest number of student suicides -- 22 so far -- with two ending their lives in a gap of a few hours on August 27. Last year, the figure was 15.
The packed schedule, cut-throat competition, constant pressure to do better, the burden of parents' expectations and homesickness are the common struggles of the students in Kota. Psychologists have been warning that there are always signs that go undetected before any child takes the extreme step.
The district administration recently directed the coaching institutes to stop conducting routine tests for students preparing for NEET and other competitive exams for the next two months in the wake of the latest suicides.
(With PTI inputs)