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OPINION | KOTA COACHING: CAREER OR DEATH FACTORY?

The annual turnover of these coaching centres is said to be in the range of more than Rs 5,000 crore. Every year, more than 50 lakh medical and engineering books are sold to students.

Written By: Rajat Sharma @RajatSharmaLive New Delhi Updated on: August 30, 2023 6:06 IST
There are 2,500 registered hostels housing nearly 1.25 lakh
Image Source : INDIA TV There are 2,500 registered hostels housing nearly 1.25 lakh students. The rest of the students stay in rented rooms.

The death of two teenagers in Kota, Rajasthan, has added to the rising number of suicides in this town famous for its coaching centres. The two students who committed suicide were preparing for NEET (National Eligibility Entrance Test) for admission to medical colleges. This year, 23 students have committed suicide during the first eight months. The trend is indeed worrying. This year’s number is by far the highest since 2015. Look at the trend: 18 suicides in Kota in 2015, 17 in 2016, seven in 2017, 20 in 2018 and 18 in 2019. No suicide took place in 2020 and 2021 due to Covid pandemic lockdown. On Sunday, the Kota administration issued an order directing all coaching institutes in the town to suspend any test for the next two months. In the latest two incidents, a student Adarsh from Rohtas, Bihar had come to Kota five months ago to prepare for NEET. He was staying in a rented flat with his sister and cousin, who are also aspirants. Adarsh scored less than 250 out of 700 marks in the internal test at his institute. He was tense that night and hanged himself from the ceiling. In the other incident, a student Avishkar Sambhaji from Ahmednagar, Maharashtra, had come to Kota for coaching three years ago. On Sunday, his internal exam marks were unsatisfactory. Five minutes before finishing his paper, he came out of his classroom and jumped to his death from the sixth floor.

Avishkar’s elder brother had cracked JEE after coaching in Kota and he is presently studying in IIT Hyderabad. Kota is considered the ‘coaching capital’ of India. Every year nearly three lakh students flock to this town to join dozens of coaching centres to crack JEE and NEET. Out of them, six are reputed coaching institutes, which charge fees ranging from Rs one to two lakh annually. The annual turnover of these coaching centres is said to be in the range of more than Rs 5,000 crore.  Every year, more than 50 lakh medical and engineering books are sold to students. There are 2,500 registered hostels housing nearly 1.25 lakh students. The rest of the students stay in rented rooms. The travel industry earns more than Rs 100 crores from parents and relatives who visit Kota to meet their wards. Most of the students come from Rajasthan, UP, Bihar, Haryana, MP, Punjab, Maharashtra, Gujarat, West Bengal and Odisha. These coaching centres are known for their rigorous studies and fortnightly exams. These centres work like a clockwork factory assembly churning out medical and engineering students. This is the brighter side, but the spate of suicides reveals its dark underbelly. Almost all students study under tremendous pressure, and some of them cannot withstand this pressure and go to the extreme by courting death. Due to indiscriminate admissions, the money-spinning coaching institutes induct more and more aspirants, but most of them are below par.

The institutes conduct regular internal tests and only those who score more than 500 out of 700 marks are added to a separate WhatsApp group known as ‘A’ category students. The bright students, who perform well in tests, get better coaching from skilled teachers, while those in lower categories are left to their fate. The bright students who crack JEE and NEET bring fame to their coaching institutes, and they even get discounts in fees through ‘scholarships’. Students who lag behind fall into mental depression. The top ten students in internal tests are kept in SRG (sure ranking group). They get separate coaching notes and tough question papers. Every student aspires to join the SRG group. Rajasthan minister Pratap Singh Khachriawas said, the time has now come for the government to wield the stick of law. He alleged that coaching institute owners are only interested in minting money and they have no sympathy for students who lag behind. Another minister Mahesh Joshi said, coaching institutes should be closed down till the time the Centre comes with a proper policy for them. Though banning coaching institutes is not feasible, but, for the time being, the state government has asked institutes not to conduct internal tests for the next two months.

India TV reporters met students, parents, coaching centre owners and psychiatrists to find ways to avoid such cases of mental trauma and suicide. Suicides by teenagers in the formative years of their life is indeed worrisome. The death of even one student can cause worries to lakhs of parents whose children study in Kota. I am not saying that all coaching institutes in Kota are bad or their teachers are insensitive. The bitter truth is that coaching in Kota has become commercialized to such an extent that it has started creating pressures on students. I am told that coaching business in Kota is to the tune of more than Rs 5,000 crore and there are no qualification for aspirants to get admission. The only criterion is money. Pay money, Get coaching, is the sole criterion. Parents feel as if there are magicians sitting in Kota coaching centres who can make their children toppers in JEE or NEET. Advertisements published by these coaching centre also give such an impression. As a result, those students who lag way behind the toppers, are gripped by fear and mental depression. They finally take the extreme step.  The need of the hour is to break this web of money and mental pressure.

Coaching centres must tell aspirants that the world is not going to end if they do not get admission to IIT or medical colleges. The world has changed. Today, in India there are varied scopes for each and every talent. Similarly, parents must understand that every student cannot become a doctor, an engineer or a UPSC civil servant like IAS, IPS. Even if their children get the job they prefer, despite low earnings, they can remain happy. Presently, there are 1,07,948 MBBS seats in India. Adding seats in all 23 IITs and other top engineering colleges, the number comes to more than three lakhs. Every year, nearly one crore children pass Class 12 board exams in India. It is not possible for all to become a doctor or an engineer. As a first step, parents must not put undue pressure on children to become engineers or doctors. It is not necessary that a child can live a good life and bring fame for his family, only by becoming a doctor or an engineer. The most important part is for parents to find out in which field their child has interest. Apart from board curriculum, there must be counselling classes for all higher secondary school children, where counsellors can speak to students and know what they want. Students must avoid the rat race. They should be motivated to achieve excellence in life, and must not be pressured to achieve top results in the face of fierce competition.

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