The NHRC has sent a notice to the HRD Ministry over the reported suicide of 49 students, including Dalits, of residential Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalayas (JNVs) between 2013 and 2017.
The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) in a statement Tuesday said, reportedly, "all, except seven, were suicides by hanging, and the bodies were discovered either by classmates or members of the school staff".
"The NHRC has taken suo motu cognisance of a media report that 49 students of the residential Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalayas (JNVs) committed suicide in campus over five years, from 2013 to 2017," the rights panel said.
Half of them were Dalit and tribal students, and a majority of them were boys, it said.
The JNVs are reported to be the central government's pace-setting residential schools for talented children from rural India, the NHRC said.
Expressing its serious concern, the commission has issued a notice to the secretary of the Union Ministry of Human Resource Development (HRD), it said.
It has sought information within six weeks on whether trained counsellors are available on campuses to whom adolescent students can open up and talk about their feelings, the commission said.
Information has also been sought on whether dedicated staff are their to ensure that children are not left alone in rooms, and emergency assistance through telephone counselling and suicide hotline services are available to them, the rights panel said.
The commission observed that intelligent students with a rural background are entrusted to the care of JNVs.
These students are the strength and future of this country. The proportion of suicides of students from the scheduled caste and scheduled tribe communities is also a matter of concern for a society, which aspires for inclusive growth, the rights panel said.
"It is a matter of fact, that the teenagers during this age (adolescence) face difficulties as they undergo a transition into adulthood.Teenagers may often get confused and develop a feeling of being isolated.
"It is also a matter of fact that many suicides are committed by the people who are depressed and are not able to cope up with stress," the NHRC said.
The commission said as per medical science, suicidal tendencies do not just appear out of the blue and people usually show a number of warning signs.
If trained counsellors are available, behavioural changes, suicidal tendencies and depression among students can be spotted in time, and with guidance and counselling, suicides can be controlled, it observed.
"According to the media report, carried on the December 24, the JNVs, started in 1985-86, have become a passport out of poverty for thousands of underprivileged children. "Since 2012, these schools have consistently recorded a pass percentage of over 99 per cent in Class 10 and over 95 per cent in Class 12, which is far better than private schools and CBSE's national average," the NHRC statement said.
The news report also "reveals that 41 out of 46 JNVs are facing a serious challenge" and that there are "635 JNVs with 2.8 lakh students".
"A total of 2.53 lakh students in the age group of 9 to 19 were enrolled across roughly 600 JNVs for the year 2017. That same year, the number of suicides touched 14.
"The news report reveals that the suicide rate that is per population of 1,00,000 at JNVs for 2017 works out to 5.5," the statement said quoting from the media report.