Hit By Lockdown & Financial Crisis, LSR Student Dies By Suicide

The student, who had scored 98.5% in Class 12, was unable to afford a laptop and was asked to vacate the hostel.

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India
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Aishwarya, who had scored 98.5 per cent in Class 12, was unable to afford a laptop and was asked to vacate the college hostel.
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A second year student of Lady Shri Ram College for Women reportedly died by suicide in her hometown in Telangana on 2 November, citing financial difficulties triggered by the lockdown and subsequent online classes.

Aishwarya Reddy, a student of BSc Mathematics (Honours), was found hanging at her home in Shadnagar in Ranga Reddy district.

The family of the 19-year-old, who had scored 98.5 percent in Class 12, said she left behind a note written in Telugu, according to a report by The Indian Express.

“Because of me, my family is facing many financial problems. I am a burden for my family. My education is a burden. If I can’t study, I can’t live,” the note reportedly read.

The financial stress triggered by the inability to afford a second-hand laptop for online classes coupled with the delay in receiving a government scholarship and her father’s loss of income due to the pandemic, have been reported as factors that led Reddy to end her life.

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi also tweeted about the 19-year-old’s death, describing it as “an extremely sad moment.” “The BJP government has destroyed countless homes by deliberately implementing demonetisation and lockdown,” Gandhi’s tweet read.

Govt Scholarship Delay

Reddy was also a recipient of the Ministry of Science and Technology’s INSPIRE scholarship, available to students for up to five years.

While her father said the scholarship was delayed, a letter received by the teenager in August indicated that there was still time for the procedure to be completed. According to The Indian Express, the letter from the Ministry, dated 6 August 2020, informed that she had been “provisionally selected” for the higher education scholarship.

It said the release of the annual fund of Rs 80,000 was subject to submission of bank account details and Aadhaar card copy before 31 December 2020.

Dr Sanjay Mishra, who took over as in-charge of the INSPIRE Programme at the Department of Science and Technology (DST) told The Indian Express, “Sometimes a delay may occur in cases for technical issues — such as if the student has not uploaded all required documents on the scholarship website, whether the previous money has been used, or if the student has failed to meet the minimum marks criteria, which is 60 per cent for a second-year student. The process of disbursal of funds is 45 days from the time of application,” he said.

College Denies Knowledge of Financial Stress

The 19-year-old’s family told the daily that a major crisis was triggered after she was asked to vacate her hostel room in October. The LSR hostel is only available for first-year students.

“Arrangements had to be made to move to a hired accommodation. I told her not to worry and that I will manage the money, though I had no idea where from. On November 2, she insisted on feeding me with her own hand. And then she took the extreme step,” Reddy said.

Srinivas and his wife Sumathi had also pledged their gold ornaments and stopped sending their second daughter to school — Aishwarya’s sister Vaishnavi (16) dropped out after Class 7.

LSR principal Suman Sharma, however, denied knowledge of the financial issued Aishwarya had been facing and said she had not reached out to the college for financial assistance.

“It is a huge loss for us and it is very unfortunate that we were unable to help her. However, she had never approached any teacher from the mathematics department or hostel authorities with her issues,”the report quoted Sharma as stating.

“The college has many schemes and scholarships but she never asked for assistance. We also have many mechanisms for mental health help, but unfortunately she had not reached out for those either.”

Student Bodies Issue Strong Condemnation

Student unions and activist bodies, however, have strongly condemned the delays in disbursing the scholarship and lack of response from the college administration on the issue.

"The Committee for Inclusive Education set up under the LSR SU has repeatedly sent emails to the administration but all in vain as they did not receive any fruitful response. Secondly, the delay in scholarship points to the apathy of the central government towards hardworking students from such backgrounds,” SFI LSR Co-Convenor Lekshmi stated.

The All India Democratic Women’s Association, Delhi Sate Committee, also came out in support of Reddy and her family.

“The pandemic was used as an excuse for non-disbursal of students’ fellowship for more than a year, where there has been no relaxation given to the students for their payments of fees, or for general sustenance otherwise.” Maimoona Mollah, President, AIDWA said in a press release.

“Do we remember, Rohith Vemula? He was denied his fellowship for months, coupled with harassment and intimidation by the government and administration combine - he was forced to end his life too. There are thousands of students in India who struggle to be in higher education,” the statement added.

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)

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