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(If you feel suicidal or know someone in distress, please reach out to them with kindness and call these numbers of local emergency services, helplines, and mental health NGOs.)
"We have lost our son and now we cannot bring him back. But this should stop with us…no one should go through what Panav went through leading to untimely demise of a bright student," Rakesh (name changed), a resident of Delhi's Shahdara, told The Quint, holding back his tears.
A week ago, on 31 October, his 21-year-old son Panav Jain, a final-year BTech student at the Indian Institute of Technology-Delhi, allegedly died by suicide at their residence. He was pursuing his degree in Textile Engineering, and is survived by his parents and a younger brother.
According to Delhi Police officials, Panav was suffering from "depression" and "mental stress" over the past few months due to academic pressure. His family was aware of the condition and he was under medication.
'IIT-Delhi Was His Dream College, He Was Ecstatic When He Got In'
In 2020, Panav secured seats in two top colleges after taking the Joint Entrance Examination (JEE): the textile department at IIT-Delhi and the software engineering department at Delhi Technological University (DTU).
"I am okay with any stream as long as I study in IIT," Panav had said, as quoted by Rakesh, before he joined IIT-Delhi.
"It was his dream to join IIT-Delhi ever since he started coaching classes in 10th standard. He use to write IIT-Delhi in his notebook and ultimately got in. He was extremely happy and we were proud of him," recollected Panav's mother Manju (name changed), a homemaker.
Panav's parents, relatives and neighbours remember him as a "brilliant student" and "kind, intelligent person."
His family said that he was not only "academically smart," but was also an "all-rounder, who used to participate in extra-curricular activities like playing basketball and organising cultural events."
In IIT-Delhi, Panav was a resident of Vindhyachal Hostel and also served as the cultural secretary and vice-captain of the basketball team.
'Became Silent, Started Talking Less'
About three-four months ago, however, Rakesh started to notice a change in Panav's behaviour.
"I noticed that he (Panav) became extremely silent. He used to talk less. He used to tell me that he was feeling stressed. He was extremely upset that he didn't secure a summer internship through college. But I kept telling him that he needn't take stress. I asked him to interact more with his friends and do meditation,"Rakesh told The Quint
Panav also confided in his parents that he was undergoing therapy in IIT-Delhi's counselling unit.
On the condition of anonymity, a senior police official told The Quint that an investigation suggested that Panav was suffering from "depression" and "stress" due to placement and academic-related issues. Panav was also affected after Anil Kumar, who stayed in the same hostel as him, died by suicide in September, the official added.
"Around 17-18 October, we showed him to a psychiatrist at Ganga Ram hospital, who prescribed him medicines. But, he did not take them as he was afraid that it will make him feel sleepy," Rakesh said.
Later in October, Rakesh had reportedly asked Panav to move back home. But since it was placement period for final-year students, he used to shuttle between college and hostel, his parents said.
Just four days prior to his death, on 27 October, Panav had a placement exam scheduled at 12 am, his parents claimed.
"He spoke to us on call at 11 pm the other day and said that he will give his exam and return home in the morning. But he called me a few hours later and said that he missed the exam as he overslept. I went and picked him up from campus at 3 am as he was extremely upset," Rakesh told The Quint.
"The placement process was one of the main reasons why Panav was stressed. The exams take place for over two hours in the night at 12 am. Where is the time for these children to sleep if you have an exam at 12 am and then you have to attend class at 9 am?" claimed Rakesh.
The Quint has reached out to IIT-D for more details – and sought their response. The article will be updated once they respond.
What Happened on 31 October?
On 31 October, Rakesh told The Quint that Panav did not attend classes as the family had gone to visit a temple to offer their prayers.
"He was with us the entire day. In the evening, my wife (Manju) and I went out to visit a temple, and sent Panav to our neighbour's house," Panav's father added.
"He was playing cards with my children till about 8:30 pm. He was laughing and enjoying. Panav then told my wife that he had some important work and that he will be back in an hour to play badminton with my daughter. He never returned," Panav's neighbour, who did not wished to be named said.
"When we returned from the walk, we saw out door was locked from inside. After waiting sometime, we broke the door and found him dead in his room," Rakesh added.
Senior police officials also told The Quint that no suicide note was recovered by the police.
'Lost Our Son, But We Want This To End Here'
Meanwhile, Panav's family said that they want to ensure that such an incident does not happen with any other student and family in the future.
"Only the best students reach IIT-Delhi. I don't know why there are so many such suicide cases. We want to raise a very important point that there must be changes within the structure of the education system in such colleges to reduce pressure and stress within the students," Rakesh told The Quint.
Panav's family said that while counselling is important for students, it was only "part of a solution" to the problem.
"Counselling is a remediation to a problem. But what is the root-cause of the problem and how to prevent this from happening? Why are students feeling pressurised in such colleges? This must be studied and investigated properly to avoid more incidents in the future," Panav's father said.
Third Case In Four Months
This incident is the third such suicide case in IIT-Delhi in 2023. In September, 20-year-old Anil Kumar had died by suicide in his hostel room at IIT-Delhi. Kumar, a BTech student was allegedly under pressure as he wasn’t able to complete his credits to secure his degree.
Earlier, in July, another IIT-Delhi student, Ayush Ashna had died by suicide.
At least thirty-three students have died by suicide across the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) since 2018, according to data presented in Rajya Sabha in March 2023 by the Ministry of Education.