The Kota student suicides and why we need to stop normalising academic pressure

by The Technical Blogs


It is no secret that a vast majority of Indian parents want to see their children succeed as doctors and engineers. Around 93% of students were aware of just seven career options as per a 2019 study. While the awareness among students may have increased in the digital surge during the pandemic years, the numbers may not have changed much for parents.

But this unawareness of the large number of booming career options and a pressure to perform academically, fuelled by relentless pressure exerted by families and institutions to excel, shrinking employment opportunities, and a toxic competitive culture in coaching institutes, is costing India dearly – it’s pricier than the whooping Rs 12,000 crore coaching industry of Kota.

On World Suicide Prevention Day, we need to note that among the estimated 7 lakh suicides occurring worldwide each year, quite a significant number comprises India’s youngsters — suicide is the leading cause of death among those aged 15 to 30 here.

The National Crime Records Bureau reported that a student took their own life every 42 minutes in 2020, totalling 34 student suicides per day. In the same year, 11,396 children below 18 years old ended their lives.

The warning signs date back to 2015 when a National Crime Records Bureau report showed a 61.3% increase in student suicides at coaching centers. A recent survey indicates that four out of ten students in Kota grapple with mental health issues such as depression.

Around two lakh students flock to Kota annually, hoping to prepare for competitive exams like the Joint Entrance Exam (JEE) and the National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test (NEET). In 2023, authorities reported 24 student suicides related to the pressure of competitive exams in the district in 2023, the highest number in any year.

According to Rajasthan police data, the figure was 15 in 2022, 18 in 2019, 20 in 2018, seven in 2017, 17 in 2016, and 18 in 2015. No student suicide was reported in Kota in 2020 and 2021 for the coaching institutes were shut due to the Covid-19 pandemic.


The “gold rush” to Kota began in the early 1990s, earning it the nickname “the new Kashi” of education after Prime Minister Narendra Modi praised the city.

Currently, around 1.77 lakh students from across India are enrolled in nine major institutes, including Allen Career Institute, Motion Education, Resonance, Bansal, Aakash, Career Point, Physics Wallah, and Unacademy.

The coaching institutes are the lifeblood of the city, with over 4,000 students’ hostels and 40,000 paying guest facilities.

It is true that many of the 2 lakh-odd students going to Kota every year end up succeeding. But not every student can handle the pressure that on psychological terms is quite abnormal.

The relentless competition among aspirants is fuelled by weekly tests, publicised results, and a fast-paced curriculum. Students find themselves trapped in gruelling 12-hour work schedules, seven days a week, far from their families and friends.

There’s a lack of support for those who struggle, and the pressure to succeed is immense.

Nitin Vijay, the CEO of Kota’s Motion Education institute, says that student suicides are a national issue spurred by parental pressure and over-expectations and that coaching centres shouldn’t be blamed for the same.

“Before sending children to prepare for medical and engineering exams, parents need to see if their child is interested in pursuing the course. At the same time, they should focus on preparing the child to take the pressure that is required to crack competitive exams,” he says.

He vouches for building self-esteem in students so they can handle the pressure of preparing for national-level competitive exams better.

Last year as well, experts suggested grooming students before sending them to Kota.

“We need to make them understand that facing failure in the process is a part of the journey, and they should not be disheartened by it,” Vijay says.

“In fact, over the years, there has been a lot of enhancement in the education system, where technology is easing the learning process for students and allowing for personalised education to give a complete support system to aspirants,” he says.

He feels that encouraging students to view lower grades as opportunities for improvement can not only assist them in managing exam-related stress but also equip them with valuable problem-solving skills.

While the Kota coaching industry appears more interested in financial gain than student welfare, Nitin Vijay rejects it, saying that fees are standardised across the board, including government institutions.

(Photo: Allen Institute website)


After Maharashtra’s Avishkar Sambhaji Kasle and Bihar’s Adarsh Raj couldn’t withstand the intense grind of coaching institutions and ended their lives on August 27, a meeting was held the very next day in Rajasthan to address the problem.

The administration had issued directives last year, including providing weekly off days for students and conducting psychological evaluations for both students and teachers. Regrettably, these directives have yet to be fully implemented.

Now, the government aims to ensure compliance with guidelines and round-the-clock support for students’ well-being. A committee led by Bhawani Singh Detha has been formed to propose preventive measures.

Recent preventative measures include a police helpline for distressed students, directives to coaching institutes to stop tests for the next two months, suggestions to organise fun activities, offering motivational content online, reducing the syllabus, and providing counselling for poorly performing or absent students.

Additionally, coaching institutes will implement a “half-day study, half-day fun” approach on Wednesdays and will not conduct routine tests for two days. A daily mental status assessment form will also be introduced.

However, these solutions do not completely address the core underlying issues.

A survey by MindPeers revealed that a staggering 75% of individuals in need of regular professional mental health care in India receive no support. This treatment gap exacerbates the mental health crisis among young people, pushing them toward despair.

The lacklustre attitude towards the seriousness of mental health issues in the country forms the foundation of this problem.

While celebrity suicides and other social issues grab headlines, the alarming rate of student and youth suicides often goes unnoticed. Society needs to recognise the complex factors leading to suicide, including parental expectations, the unforgiving education system, and societal pressures.

Administrative responses, like ordering the installation of springs and sensors on ceiling fans, only place blame on students and increase surveillance, boosting anxiety.

Long-term solutions require a collaborative effort from parents, educators, institutions, policymakers, mental health professionals, and young people who have experienced the impact first-hand.


Going beyond the statistics, it’s crucial to delve into the underlying issues that drive students to take such drastic measures. The pressure-cooker environment in Kota’s coaching centres is a glaring problem.

Students are compelled to study for about 16-18 hours a day in cramped classrooms, leaving them with little or no time for recreation or relaxation. Exams are even scheduled on weekends, adding to their stress.

As told by an ex-student from Kota’s rigorous system, exams are taken every two-three weeks to assess the preparation levels. The deal breaker is the public display of the marks scored. There are separate lists for the top 10, the top 100, and those who didn’t clear the test.

Moreover, the coaching centres cover the syllabus at a rapid pace. And if one cannot keep up, they will fall behind and face a syllabus that just keeps piling up. It is almost impossible to catch up.

The financial pressure from middle-class parents is also immense as these students constantly face the imminent responsibility of paying of lakhs of money – but only after they get a decent job which again, they can get only if they crack the exam they are studying for and secure a seat in a desired institute.

Many of the students who died by suicide in Kota came from small towns and middle-class or lower middle-class families. These students were likely the top of their class in their hometowns and full of hope of a successful future wherein they emancipate their parents from their restricted settings and opportunities.

It’s a starry-eyed dream that they climb towards. And if one rung of the ladder breaks, or they lose their footing, they come crashing down, dreams and all.


Suicide or suicidal behaviour results from a complex interplay of biological, socioemotional, cultural, political, and social justice factors.

In the case of young people, these influences manifest as developmental differences, parental expectations, the rigorous education system, and the marginalization faced due to factors like race, religion, or socio-economic background.

Over time, these pressures accumulate, leading to feelings of hopelessness and despair. It’s important to note that the development of a mental health disorder may occur along this path, but it is not a necessary precursor to suicidal behaviour.

While short-term goals include ensuring students’ mental well-being through counselling and awareness programmes, we must also question society’s tendency to demand unrelenting excellence from young minds.

The primary cause behind the rise of student suicides in Kota seems to be the high-pressure environment with little to no relief for students. The human psyche is simply not built to work optimally in such a setup for an extended period.

Over time, this intense competitiveness, lack of friendship and support among peers, the physical absence of parents, and unhealthy eating and sleeping patterns, coupled with financial pressure and lack of motivation towards the chosen career path breaks down the mental stability of the teens.

Moreover, the media coverage of suicides also impacts the family and peers of the victims due to the sheer emotional upheaval that is caused by such an event that they are not taught how to deal with.


The Rajasthan government appears to have taken a proactive stance on the crisis in Kota and promises to investigate and find solutions.

While these may be welcome changes in the right direction, knee-jerk reactions and band-aid solutions like fans with springs, CCTVs, and punitive actions against scapegoats will not bring lasting change.

What is required is a much deeper and continuing engagement with all stakeholders, including parents, educators, pivotal institutions, policymakers, professionals, people with lived experiences, and young people who have faced the brunt of these tumultuous times and survived.

A deeper understanding of child psychology, including what is considered a healthy lifestyle for effective functionality of developing minds is urgently needed among coaching centre officials, teachers, parents and the students themselves.

“Education and awareness campaigns are instrumental in destigmatising mental health issues and normalising conversations around them. When we encourage open, non-judgmental communication, we create a vital lifeline for those who may be struggling silently,” says Dr Krishna Veer Singh, Co-Founder and CEO of Lissun.

“Recognising the warning signs of distress, such as extreme mood swings, social withdrawal, or expressions of suicidal thoughts, is equally vital. These signs should never be dismissed, and intervention should be immediate,” he says.

“Seeking professional help is paramount, and individuals in distress should be empowered to reach out to mental health professionals or helplines without hesitation. Timely intervention can quite literally save lives,” he adds.

Suicide prevention helpline numbers:

  • iCALL: +91 9152 987 821 (Mon to Sat, 10 am – 8 pm)
  • Roshni: +9140 6620 2000, +9140 6620 2001 (All days, 11 am – 9 pm)
  • SNEHA: 044-24640050, 044-24640060 (Mon to Sat, 10 am – 6 pm)

Published On:

Sep 10, 2023


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