Mysterious death of three college students in Tamil Nadu has once again raised questions over racketing in educational institutions and indicates towards extortion scam
Even before the din and dust settled down after the suicide death of Hyderabad Central University research scholar Rohith Vemula, the mysterious death of three private unrecognised Siddha College students hit the headlines in Tamil Nadu media. The events so-far unfolded, have a thriller movie content with parents protest, asking for re-post-mortem with a CBI probe, political leaders rapping the State Government and the revenue authorities sealing the controversial college and arrest of management representatives.
Questions need Answers
The three students Monisha (19), Saranya (19) and Priyanka (20), were studying in privately run SVS College of Naturopathy and Yoga Science in Villupuram district around 230 km south west of Chennai. These poor girls killed themselves, what appeared to be a suicide pact, by jumping into a well in a farm near the college on 23rd of this month reportedly because the college charged exorbitant fees but lacked basic infrastructure.
The deaths sparked a row of stir by parents and their relatives of the students studying in the college, locals and political parties protested against giving permission to doctors at Villupuram Government Hospital for post-mortem. M Ezhumalai, Saranya’s father charged that his daughter was murdered. “My daughter was among those who had deposed against the college during an enquiry by officials after the students submitted a
complaint to the district administration last year.
Another girl’s parents said that their daughter was voicing complaints regarding lack of amenities and collection of exorbitant fees. The girls allegedly left behind a suicide note charging the college of collecting huge sum as fees, lacking facilities.
Mystery shrouds the death of a 2nd year
B Tech student Shanmuga Preetha of Anna University who allegedly had fallen from the second floor of the girls’ hostel building inside the university campus on January 24. The police declared it as an accidental fall, but the parents of the girl are not accepting the same
Unfortunately, there are no buyers for this theory of suicide. The parents question, ‘How could three girls tie each others’ legs and hands and then jump into the well?’
“They have injuries on their faces. Their heads have injuries, but they say they jumped into the well,” says an angry Anbzhagan, Monisha’s relative. As one might suspect, the ‘college’ is alleged to be almost just a paper-entity, one of the several private colleges across the country which run the ‘education scam’ fuelled by colluding government officials. There seems to be no infrastructure and students complain of repeated harassment for money without any accountability.
“The college is not functional. Nobody teaches us anything. There is one Yoga teacher, Dharma, who teaches us Physiology and Anatomy. That’s the only throughout the day class we have,” says a student. “It’s not like a Medical College at all. The college is just like a house. Ten students live in each room in the hostel and there is only one toilet and bathroom,” says another student.
“All of all of us got admitted to the college through the State Government’s yearly counselling process. Each of us has spent more than Rs 6 lakh till now, but they have given us a receipt of just Rs, 55,000 ” said a parent . The college authorities threatened the students that they would fail them if they raised their fingers against the college.
“My parents have paid nearly Rs 1,58,000 but we have been given receipt only for Rs 86,000”, said another student. ‘These colleges lack infrastructure facilities and faculties. And it is obivious that they are playing with the future of lakhs and lakhs of students’, he added. (In Tamil Nadu, the Government Siddha colleges charge below Rs 3000 as annual fee). ‘The privatisation of higher education in the State led to commercialisation and people with political support start schools from primary to higher secondary level, and arts, engineering and medical colleges’, said a parent.
After the issue hit the top, the Tamil Nadu Dr MGR Medical University which gives affiliation to these colleges remarked that they were not aware of the college. Its Vice-chancellor, Dr Geethalakshmi said that the college was functioning without recognition and she would order a probe and would take action against people behind it. She assured that the students would be placed in affiliated colleges to continue their studies. When the protest was in peak the revenue authorities sealed the controversial college. The police arrested college Principal Kalanidhi, Suvagur Varma, son of college President Vasuki Subramanian. They have been remanded to 14 days’ judicial custody.
One of the girl’s father who lost his daughter moved the Madras High Court seeking a re-autopsy and a CBI probe. The Court refused to served for a re-post-mortem but asked the authorities to preserve their bodies in good condition and ordered notices to Tamil Nadu Government.
DMK president M Karunanidhi sought a judicial probe into the matter and charged that the AIADMK Government had remained a mute spectator. MDMK chief Vaiko said the State should accept responsibility for the girls’ death and initiate probe against those who gave recognition to the college. PMK founder president Dr Ramdoss urged the State Government to give a solatium of Rs 25 lakh to each of the parents of these three girls.
The suicide incident of girls in quick succession in the State has sent shock waves among the people. On 26th Jan, 19 year old Sulochana, a first year student in a private college in Adirampattinam, near Thanjavur, ended her life by hanging in the professor’s rest room. “My daughter was slapped by a senior cadet during her ncc practice. She was upset and refused to go to college for republic day celebrations. This could be the reason for her death”, said Sulochana’s father, Sankar.
Meanwhile, the Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa has ordered a thorough probe into the death of these three girls and announced a compensation of Rs one lakh each to their families. The college was denied affiliation by the Tamil Nadu MGR Medical University for the 2015-16 academic years, but absence of a strong vibrant regulatory mechanism allowed the college to function. It offered courses in traditional Medicine and also ran a Homeopathy College using the same inadequate infrastructure and faculty in violation of norms. Despite flouting norms it evaded action. TS Venkatesan