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A Distressing Development

August 19, 2017

A recent unfortunate incident haunts the campus of IIT Roorkee - Aman Chauhan, a resident of Mainpuri, UP, committed suicide by hanging himself in his room, in Ganga Bhawan (2nd floor). He was pursuing a Masters of Science in Chemistry (PG) at IIT Roorkee and had joined the institute on July 13th.

Details gathered via Mr. Mrinmoy Sinha, Secretary at Ganga Bhawan

At around 12pm, 19th August, a neighbour knocked on the first year M.Sc student’s door, asking for bathing apparatus. On hearing no reply, he looked through the window, and immediately, he understood the gravity of the situation. Along with some friends, they tried to knock down the door, while another student hurried to alert the authorities. However, breaking the door proved to be difficult as the latch was reinforced and strong. They, then, proceeded to remove the netting from the window, breaking it and opening the door lock from inside. Nevertheless, by the time they got to him, it was too late.

According to certain sources, Aman had last been seen going to the mess to eat breakfast in the morning.

Gathered by his friends’ accounts, Aman appeared to be suffering from depression and had been prescribed Lithium tablets by the in-house psychiatrist. He was laconic and answered most questions in binary, yeses/nos. He seemed aloof and didn’t change his behaviour in the past month (since joining IIT Roorkee). According to some friends, he maintained a written diary. However, it hasn’t been found yet.

His roommate had gone to Delhi two days ago, and, thus, wasn’t present during the incident. At around 3:30pm, we witnessed the student’s body being transferred to the hospital via the ambulance.The Uttrakhand Police took the relevant evidence from his room. Later, we followed the Deans and professors to Rajendra Bhawan’s office where we waited for a statement.

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Certain excerpts from the conversation that we had with the Deans

WO: Could you give us the official brief from the administration regarding this unfortunate incident?

DOSW (Dr. Anand Joshi): I wasn’t here the entire time. Dr. Upadhyay and others were here before me. But as per eyewitnesses, Mr. Aman Chauhan, a MSc First Year student (PG), committed suicide by hanging himself in the room. But, this is still a matter of investigation for the Police. There was no note left by the student.

WO: What do we know about the student? Have any reasons, which justify his choice of such an extreme measure, been stumbled upon?

DOSW: As there is no evidence or indication left behind by the student, it has been very difficult for us to judge as to why he committed such an act. We all feel that this incident is very unfortunate and are saddened deeply by it. We are taking lots of efforts to improve the counselling cell. We are (planning on) introducing a new online counselling app by the name of “Your Dost”. So, we are trying to take care of all these things for the students, on all ends. For this case, in particular, we have no proper information.

WO: Was the student undergoing counselling?

Aalok Misra (ADOSW, Student Wellness): I spoke to Dr. Shikha Jain and she said that she was not in touch with the student. He was probably in touch with the psychiatrist Dr. Gupta, however I’m not sure about that.

WO: Any information inlet, justifying the act, given by his friends?

DOSW: I have no information regarding this.

WO: The student just joined a month ago. Any reason as to why he took this step?

DOSW: I don’t have the entire information. If a student comes away from home, he is under mental pressure. We do try to provide support through orientation program and giving information about Counselling cell.

WO: What steps are you taking in the future to avoid such incidents. Could this have been prevented?

DOSW: We are taking every effort to prevent the happening of such incidents. We are all feeling distressed by this unfortunate event. We take all efforts to stop depression amongst students - continuously expanding our counselling cell and providing online services for all students, 24 hrs, the entire year (referring to the new app that is being developed by the administration).

WO: Has this initiative been launched?

DOSW: It was earlier in the process, but, now, everything is finalised, and, hopefully, by the 1st of September, it will be launched.

WO: Any message you would like to give to the rest of the student community?

DOSW: My advice to all the students is that if you are in any sort of trouble, you are free to contact anyone of us - whether the problem is academic, physical, or mental. If you have any problem, please approach me.

Our Viewpoint :

This unfortunate incident also raises many questions and issues about our campus and its administration.

  • Regarding the counselling cell - Is having only one counsellor for 8000+ students justified?
  • As is apparent about from the discussion, why is the administration ignorant about the situation?
  • If the student was already diagnosed, why didn’t the psychiatrist notify the administration that he may have suicidal tendencies?
  • The student just joined the campus (a month back). Why is it the case that after just one month at IITR, he was forced to take such a step? Isn’t the orientation program effective in helping the students adjust? Why are the students so stressed just after joining the campus?
  • What should the administration be doing differently to make the inbound students feel more welcome, secure, and relaxed?
  • The administration claims to be developing a new app, but how effective will it be if students aren’t made aware about the various counselling facilities available to them?
  • Why is there so little awareness about depression? If the students were correctly trained to report any signs of depression/self harm to the counselling cell, would this situation have turned out differently?

Though the administration means well, the fact that this unfortunate incident happened, shows us the glaring holes in the way in which the students’ psychologies and problems are handled in our campus. We, at Watch Out, are deeply enraged by the flaws that the counselling system in our campus has and will put up an in-depth analysis of the same, soon. We hope that the issue is promptly raised - both, by the SAC and the administration - to ensure that such an incident doesn’t occur again.

Also, we would like to emphasize that the entire student community stands with the friends and family of the deceased, and mourn, deeply, for the loss of a bright young mind. We utterly stress that everyone at IITR is here to help, and, any student facing any such tendencies, or feeling depressed, should contact the counselling cell. If one notices such symptoms, he/she should report it to the counselling cell, as well, hence ensuring that the affected student receives proper attention.

No student should have to go through this, ever again.