In a shocking incident, a student of Delhi’s prestigious Lady Shri Ram College for Women died by suicide on November 3, leaving behind a note citing financial difficulties. The student, hailing from Telangana, was reportedly the recipient of the government’s ‘Inspire’ scholarship, awarded to her for topping class XII results, but hadn’t received the scholarship amount. As a result, her family, which had mortgaged their house for her education, had been under extreme economic constraint. Her parting note mentioned, “Please make sure that my family gets my Inspire scholarship amount for at least one year. Forgive me. I’m not a good daughter… I cannot live because I cannot study.” The 19-year-old was in the second year of her BSc Mathematics (Honours) at LSR.
‘We were ready to go to any length to support her education’: Parents of LSR student who ended life
The young student aspired to become an IAS officer. Her parents had big hopes for her. As per Indian Express, her parents, who are daily wage workers, mortgaged their home, pledged gold ornaments, and even stopped sending their second daughter to school to fund the LSR student’s education.
These issues were brought to light by Unnimaya, LSR Students Union General-Secretary and friend of the deceased, who mentioned that the student’s condition had been exacerbated during her time at LSR. In a social media post, Unnimaya elaborated on how the girl was ill-equipped to attend online classes during the pandemic. In addition to that, the college’s instruction for students to vacate their hostel rooms had surmounted her troubles. The social media post has gone viral. Immense outrage has built against the college administration and authorities, with many students terming the death an “institutional murder.”
Shame on LSR admin
Shame on GOI pic.twitter.com/q8irH0dMEx
— Unnimaya (@__unnimaya) November 7, 2020
LSR Student Suicide
Explaining the student’s condition, Unnimaya further wrote, “The students’ union had conducted a survey among the students to understand the impact of the digital divide. We found that she had no laptop and it was difficult for her to attend the classes. The online classes cost her dearly for getting the data packs. To one of the questions regarding practicals, she had written “They are teaching well but I don’t have laptop, and my mobile is not working well so I am unable to do any practical paper”. Soon, she found that the college had asked her to vacate the hostel rooms in the midst of the pandemic. She was trying to get it transferred through movers and packers but it too was costly.”
College Alumni Association Issues Statement
In light of the suicide, the LSR Alumni Association ELSA has issued a statement standing in solidarity with the college. It says, “We are all deeply saddened about Aishwarya’s death… We as ELSA stand with our college LSR… The college is equally shocked as Aishwarya had never approached the department or admin or principal or faculty for any help. LSR has a certified counsellor… College policies are very transparent regarding hostel accommodation.” The association has initiated a charity to help financially burdened students.
The association’s statement has been slammed by many as “insensitive”. Students claiming an “institutional murder” are unsatisfied with the college being absolved of any responsibility in the matter. The association’s statement has reportedly been withdrawn now.
Addressing the issue, Unnimaya has released a video statement on Twitter, appealing for justice:
Rise against Institutional murder
— Unnimaya (@__unnimaya) November 8, 2020
Indian Express quoted LSR principal Suman Sharma as saying, “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 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.”
Parents of the deceased, speaking to the media, said that to afford her education, they had to even stop sending their younger daughter to school. According to them, the deceased had asked them for digital gadgets to attend online classes. However, their financial crunch did not allow them to purchase even a second-hand laptop for her. “As much as we want justice for our daughter, we want authorities to ensure that no other student faces a similar fate,” her father Srinivas Reddy said.
Social Media Demands Justice
Ever since news of the student’s demise broke, students of the college as well as social media users have been demanding answers from the administration. The issue has brought to light the class differentiation and economic hierarchy that exists within elite institutions in the country.
With calls for justice on Twitter, the news is trending online, with several notable people and organisations reacting to it.
The JNUSU Condoles the death of Aishwarya, a bright student of Lady Sri Ram College for Women who was forced to take away her life due to the apathy and negligence by the authorities at all level. #JusticeForAishwarya#ReleaseScholarships
— JNUSU (@JNUSUofficial) November 8, 2020
What Aishwarya said. @drharshvardhan , if this does not shame you, I don't know what will. #JusticeForAishwarya #ReleaseScholarships pic.twitter.com/l9jpdEB9Rd
— SFI Delhi (@SfiDelhi) November 8, 2020
Due to non-dispursal of the INSPIRE scholarship, a student of Lady Sriram College was forced to commit suicide. SFI demands the immediate disbursal of all national fellowships & to continue the disbursal unfailingly every month.#ReleaseScholarships#JusticeForAishwarya pic.twitter.com/yT6FInUb3G
— Mayukh Biswas (@MayukhDuke) November 8, 2020
Our institutions can't be turned into graveyards. The stopping of scholarships has caused crisis and anxiety that cannot be tackled with "Man ki baat". Act now. #JusticeForAishwarya #ReleaseScholarships
— Dipsita (@DharDipsita) November 8, 2020