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‘My Son Paid a Price for His Dreams’: Father of Kota Student Who Died by Suicide

“Becoming a doctor was the only thing he wanted to do. There was no other plan,” Ranjeet Singh's father recalls.

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(Trigger Warning: Discussions of suicide.)

On 29 January 2023, Rati Bhan Singh, a real estate property dealer from Rajrooppur village in Uttar Pradesh’s Prayagraj district, was boarding a train to Rajasthan’s Kota.

Singh’s 22-year-old son Ranjeet was preparing for the national medical entrance test or NEET at the Allen Career Institute since August 2022. 

While Singh had boarded the train alone, in his pocket were two return tickets to home. He had a surprise for his son. He was not only going to meet Ranjeet, but he wanted to take him back home too.

But it wasn’t Ranjeet who received the surprise. It was Singh.

On the afternoon of 30 January, around 2-2:30 PM, when Singh reached Ranjeet’s hostel in Kota’s Kunhari and entered his room, he saw his son’s body.

Ranjeet is one of the 29 students who died by suicide in Kota in 2023 – the highest number of students suicides recorded in at least eight years in the infamous coaching factory. 

Almost a year after Ranjeet’s death, the family is still grappling with the tragedy of losing their child.

“Becoming a doctor was the only thing he wanted to do. There was no other plan,” Ranjeet Singh's father recalls.

Ranjeet with his family.

(Photo: Accessed by The Quint)

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From Kanpur to Kota: Chasing the Medical Dream

Born and raised in Rajrooppur, Ranjeet came from a close-knit family. His younger brother Ayush (17), his mother Ranjana, and his father made up most of his world, his parents said.

There was one other dream though. Ranjeet had always wanted to be a doctor. Singh doesn’t remember where or what inspired Ranjeet, but he tells The Quint, “Becoming a doctor was the only thing he wanted to do. There was no other plan.”

Before moving to Kota in August 2022, Ranjeet had been preparing at the New Light Institute in Kanpur for two years. He had already taken the exam thrice. 

When Ranjeet first floated the idea of Kota to his family, his father took some time before getting on board.

“I asked him not to go so far away, to opt for somewhere closer. I told him he could continue staying in Kanpur. But he said Kota is the best. He was very adamant about moving. He went to Kota out of his own will.”
Rati Bhan Singh
“Becoming a doctor was the only thing he wanted to do. There was no other plan,” Ranjeet Singh's father recalls.

Ranjeet Singh.

(Photo: Accessed by The Quint)

Over multiple conversations with The Quint, Singh’s answer to one question remains the same. What was Ranjeet like? Seedha. Innocent. Meek.

Singh says that he’s certain most of their neighbours wouldn’t have known Ranjeet because he was such a quiet person. He adds that Ranjeet would always be found with his nose buried in books. If he ever had some free time, he’d watch television.

That’s also why Ranjeet only had one or two friends in his hometown – and reportedly none in Kanpur and Kota, according to his father.

In Kota too, he lived alone in a single room. On that fateful day, Singh was the first person to see Ranjeet's body.

Singh says, “Ranjeet was the only one in the family who had big dreams.” After a sigh, follows a father’s heartbreaking realisation. “He paid a price for it.”

The Rat Race of Ranks

When Ranjeet was leaving for Kota, he was sure he’d qualify NEET in the next attempt.

Then what went wrong? The way coaching institutes function, alleges Singh. Before his death, Ranjeet had been missing classes for some days.

“It was the coaching atmosphere that made him feel disturbed. There they categorise students on the basis of their ranks. The students with better ranks get better teachers. Why do this categorisation if the students are paying equal fee? This really affects the morale of the students and pressures them, too. The coaching institutes are at fault. I will never advise anyone to send their children to Kota.”
Rati Bhan Singh

On 27 September 2023, amid the increasing number of student suicides in Kota, the Ashok Gehlot-led Rajasthan government released guidelines for coaching institutes in order to alleviate the mental pressure off students. 

The guidelines explicitly mentioned that the institutes can’t segregate students into “special batches” on the basis of their ranks or the scores they receive on their assessment tests.

Tragically for the Singh family, the guidelines were eight months too late.

When The Quint reached out to Allen Career Institute, they responded saying, "In NEET, the practice of categorisation has been stopped since before COVID. This has been submitted in writing to government authorities as well. Admissions are conducted on a first-come, first-served basis, and no reshuffling is done during the year. We are fully compliant with government orders and working in tandem with multiple government authorities."

Singh, on the other hand, says that while Ranjeet never complained, on some occasions, he had told his father how much the rank-based segregation was affecting him.

Singh says, “Once or twice he did confess to me, ‘Ab yahan padhne ka matlab nahi hai’. (Now there’s no use studying here.) But I told him, ‘Ab gaye ho to ye saal karlo, uske baad chale aana’. (Now that you’re there, try staying till the end of the year, come back after that.) I told him we’ll figure something out.”

Even after his consolations to his son, Singh had booked his son’s return ticket home. The ticket was never used.

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Last Words Left Undeciphered

Ranjeet would talk to his family frequently. The last time Singh spoke to him was on 28 January. When Singh had asked him if he was facing any trouble, Ranjeet had spoken his last words to his father. “Nahi, aap aa jaiye. (No, you come.)”

But Ranjeet’s actual last words, the family has still not been able to decipher. The 22-year-old had left a suicide note.

A news report in PTI from January 2023 had quoted DSP Shankar Lal as saying that in the 4–5-page suicide letter recovered from Ranjeet’s room, he had “written on spiritualism, depression, and gods and goddesses."

When The Quint had asked him about the letter in October 2023, Singh had only said, “Usne chora tha letter, par uska kuch matlab hua nahi, hume nahi samajh aaya. (He had left a letter but we weren’t able to understand it.)”

The Quint has written to the Rajasthan Police to access the letter. 

After Ranjeet’s demise, a post-mortem was done, and the police carried out the routine investigation. But his family decided against filing any complaint with them. 

“What would have been the use of it anyway after I had already lost my child? We all miss him a lot, what else is there to do now?”
Rati Bbhan Singh

This article is part of The Quint's Special Project on the Kota crisis. Click here to support us to bring you more such important stories.

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