The data speaks clearly. According to the figures produced by the Union Education Ministry, 23 IITs (Institutes of Technology), 25 IIITs, 7 IISERs (Institutes of Science and Research, Technology), 20 IIMs (Institutes of Management), 32 NITs (Institutes of Technology)and 1 IISc (Institutes of Science). Out of these as many as 19 IITs, 14 IIITs, 7 IISER, 1 IISc, 20 IIMs and 26 NITs have SC/ST students’ cells. This accounts for 80 percent of all institutes. Yet a high 67 suicides were recorded in these institutes over the past years.
Dr Subhas Sarkar, the Minister of State for Education told the Lok Sabha on March 20 that out of the 108 Central Institutions of Higher Education, 87 have SC/ST Cells for assistance of students belonging to these communities. The remaining institutes, the Ministry states, have set up mechanisms such as Equal Opportunity Cell, Student Grievance Cell, Student Grievance Committee, Student Social Club, Liaison officers, Liaison Committee etc.
The question was put by S Venkatesan [CPI (Marxist)] who questioned about the reported suicides of students belonging to Scheduled Castes (SCs)/Scheduled Tribes (STs) in Central Institutions of Higher education and how many of these institutes have SC/ST Cells.
Of the total deaths by suicide, during the last five years, 33 suicide cases from IITs, 24 cases from NITs and 4 cases from IIMs have been reported from student belonging to the SC/ST community, said the Ministry.
According to the testimony given by the Ambedkar Periyar Phule Study Circle (APPSC) of IIT Bombay, it was a long struggle to get the IIT institutes to establish a SC/ST cell in the IITs. A struggle which had begun in September 2014, after Aniket Ambhore, a 22 year old fourth year B. Tech student of IIT Bombay, died from falling from a hostel building on the campus at IIT Bombay . As per their narrative, it was due to their consistent struggles that a special cell was established in IITs. It took them 7 years to set up the SC/ST Cell on the campus. These SC/ST Students Cell are supposed to addresses academic and non-academic issues and complaints received from students belonging to the SC and ST birth categories, which could be scholarship issues, opportunity issues or any other guidance.
That there is a structural bias in operation appears more than clear.
In 2022, the APPSC had complained to the National Commission for Scheduled Tribes (NCST) that the head counsellor at the Student Wellness Centre (SWC) on the Mumbai campus had signed a public petition to end caste-based reservation and posted about it on social media. The Ministry told the House that the Head Counsellor was removed, and a new In-Charge for Student Wellness Centre has been appointed. “The institute has initiated the recruitment of one counsellor each from the SC and ST communities, so that students can approach them for their grievance,” the Ministry said.
The complete answer may be read here: