Shocking justification: 'Why appoint a counsellor after student's death?'

Feb 04, 2014, 05:55 IST | Niranjan Medhekar

This statement was made by P V Sarode, principal of Government Polytechnic and Joint Director of DTE (Pune region), about the delay in appointing a counsellor, despite state issuing guidelines way back in 2011; Kiran Ombase (19) allegedly committed suicide on Sunday morning, becoming the third city student to take the drastic step in the last three months

Students at the Government Polytechnic in Shivaji Nagar were given a half day to mourn the death of 19-year-old Kiran Ombase, a third-year student, who allegedly committed suicide on Sunday morning.

With a heavy heart: A notice board at the college informing students and staff members about a condolence meet held in Kiran Ombase’s memory on the college premises yesterday

Though a bright student, Ombase allegedly killed himself inside his hostel room by hanging from the ceiling fan. The incident came to light after his roommate forced open the door when his repeated knocks went unanswered.

Ombase’s last rites were performed in his village near Satara on Sunday evening. Ombase is the third city student to commit suicide in the last three months.

Life cut short: Kiran Ombase’s suicide was discovered by his roommate, who forced open the door after his repeated knocks went unanswered; (above) Government Polytechnic in Shivaji Nagar

The rising number of college students committing suicide indicates that educational institutes have failed to implement concrete measures to secure students’ lives, despite the government framing guidelines in 2011 about appointing counsellors at educational facilities in the state.

When contacted, P V Sarode, the principal of Government Polytechnic, said, “As the incident (suicide) has already occurred, what is the point in appointing a counsellor now?”

Sarode is also a joint director of the Directorate of Technical Education (Pune region), the state body responsible for
framing and implementing government policies related to education.

Replying to the reminder about the state guidelines pertaining to the appointment of counsellors, he said “The government hasn’t directed us about it. It is the institute’s responsibility to frame the policy. In our institute, our teachers counsel students. In fact, the principal’s address itself can be counted as counselling. Our college has 3,000 students. How can a single counsellor handle all of them? That is why our teachers conduct group sessions to talk to them.”

While the college appointed a three-member committee to probe the case and exact the cause of Ombase’s suicide, the National Students’ Union of India (NSUI) city president Atul Mhaske met the college authorities yesterday and demanded a thorough investigation in the case from every angle, including ragging.

Counter reaction
Stating that the presence of a counsellor on the college campus was of utmost importance, the head of Computer Science department in the insitute, U V Kokate, said managing funds for the initiative was a mammoth task.

“We have students between the age group of 16 and 19, who take admission for diploma after SSC. This is the transitional phase of their lives and hence, counselling is vital. Being a government institute, we can’t afford a counsellor until we receive grants from the state,” Kokate said.

Principal speaks
Elaborating the measures taken by his institute, Modern College principal Rajendra Zunjarrao said, “I remember that two years ago, all colleges had received a circular from the higher education director’s office regarding appointment of counsellors at their respective institutes.

Unfortunately, there has been no follow-up from the government’s side on this topic. I’m aware that the UGC also gives grants to colleges for counselling purposes, provided they apply for it, under the ongoing 12th five-year plan.”

He said the psychology department of the college had taken the responsibility of counselling the students. And even those pursuing MA in clinical psychology were doubling as counsellors in their free time.

Recent cases

>> January 4, 2014 Saumitra Dhoble, a first-year student of ILS Law College, committed suicide at his residence in Nagpur. Poor performance at the recently concluded examinations drove Dhoble to take the drastic step.

>> November 11, 2013 Sangameshwar Jadhav, a second-year student of CoEP, ended his life in his hostel room. In his suicide note, Jadhav mentioned exam stress as the reason for him taking the extreme step.

Officials from Chaturshrungi police station said they were in the process of recording statements of Ombase’s friends and other students. They are yet to ascertain the exact cause of his death, as no suicide note was recovered from the body or the room.
“According to the statements of students we recorded on Monday, Kiran seemed to be an introvert. We didn’t find any suicide note. We also scrutinised his mobile phone records, but found nothing suspicious that could have provoked the boy to end his life. Our investigation is on,” informed an official.

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