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HRD Ministry seeks report from IIT-Madras over student suicide


NEW DELHI: Union Human Resources Development Ministry, on Thursday, sought a report on the suicide of an undergraduate student, Fathima Latheef, from the Indian Institute of Technology, Madras amid reports that she had mentioned harassment by a college professor in her suicide note.
The Ministry has asked the institute director for a report within a week. 

“We want to understand under what circumstances she took the extreme step and what are the measures being taken at the institute to address the issue of mental health of students,” a senior official in the Ministry told this newspaper.  

Latheef, who hailed from Kerala, ended her life at the institute on November 9.
Family members of Latheef who was studying humanities at the institute have accused IIT Madras officials of giving “contradictory statements” to “cover-up” the matter and have also alleged of religious bias against her by one of her professors.  

Responses to several queries under the Right to Information (RTI) by the top eight IITs have revealed recently that 48 cases of suicides were reported at these premium technology institutes in the last 10 years-which means nearly five suicides every year. The highest number of suicides was registered at IIT, Kharagpur followed by IIT, Madras.

Officials in the Ministry said that over the last few years there have been intensive discussions in IITs, prodded by the government to curb the menace. 

“There have been several initiatives, including a continuous mentorship program and psychological counseling of students on campuses,”said another official in the higher education department.