Self-harm is the leading cause of death amongst India’s youth, screams the headline of a news story appearing in nearly every major newspaper in the country based on 2013 data. At over 62,000 such deaths (10-24 year olds) in that year alone, it is a grim wakeup call for nation. Road accidents, in a country infamous for its killer road crossings, come in as the second biggest threat, with 41,000 deaths reported.
With 5 suicides in Kota already, the exam pressure and the expectation to perform is one factor in this statistic. With parents forcing students to perform academically, it has brought about an unhealthy trend of getting students to focus on entrance exams at a time when they are barely out of their childhood and still understanding what it is they would want to pursue. Children choosing a certain career trajectory because their parents chose it for them, or in some cases, because their parents couldn’t pursue it themselves is a worrying detail which is gaining ground amongst the youth.
In a recent study in IIT Delhi, many students admitted that their time in coaching before getting into the premier institute has burned them out, causing less focus once they make it into the college, making their grades suffer. Who can blame them? We are a country who cares more about the name of the college rather than the ability of the student.
While academic pressure is a big factor, it is not the only factor in young suicides. For the 1.8 crore students who are enrolled in higher education, there is much more to worry about than just the exams. Outside the hallowed fields of engineering and medicine, the youth is also forced to face a cultural revolution, a clash of their desire to explore their own lives versus the heavy burden of tradition and authority by which they are expected to lead their lives. Rohith Vemula, in his suicide note points to the same –
“The value of a man was reduced to his immediate identity and nearest possibility. To a vote. To a number. To a thing. Never was a man treated as a mind. As a glorious thing made up of stardust. In very field, in studies, in streets, in politics, and in dying and living.
I am writing this kind of letter for the first time. My first time of a final letter. Forgive me if I fail to make sense. Maybe I was wrong, all the while, in understanding world. In understanding love, pain, life, death. There was no urgency. But I always was rushing. Desperate to start a life. All the while, some people, for them, life itself is curse. My birth is my fatal accident. I can never recover from my childhood loneliness. The unappreciated child from my past. I am not hurt at this moment. I am not sad. I am just empty. Unconcerned about myself. That’s pathetic. And that’s why I am doing this.”
At 26, he may be slightly outside the statistical parameters of the study, while speaking volumes that the numbers will not give us. As a country which boasts of one of the largest youth populations in the world this is indeed a sad state of affairs. With reasons for suicides ranging from family stress to romantic reasons, it just goes to show how the youth do not have a say, to not only voice their concerns, but even voice their pain.
While political parties of our country continue playing with the future of the country’s youth, the youth can only hope for a better tomorrow. A hope which is fast vanishing from the minds of the likes of the ones lost so young. Their smiling pictures out of place in mourning. Their eyes giving a slight glimmer of youthful enthusiasm and an accusation on the leaders who have failed them.
Ranveer Raj Bhatnagar