Aishwarya Reddy suicide case: Of poverty, heartless college administration and bright life lost

On November 2, Aishwarya Reddy, 19, ended her life at her hometown in Shadnagar of Rangareddy district. Aishwarya's death sparked outrage against the college administration

By Sumit Jha  Published on  10 Nov 2020 4:47 AM GMT
Aishwarya Reddy suicide case: Of poverty, heartless college administration and bright life lost

Hyderabad: On November 2, Aishwarya Reddy, 19, ended her life at her hometown in Shadnagar of Rangareddy district. Aishwarya's death sparked outrage against the college administration after her family and friends alleged that she was denied a scholarship and asked to vacate her hostel.

In 2019, Aishwarya scored 98.5 percent in Class XII and got admission in a prestigious Lady Shri Ram College under Delhi University to pursue B.Sc Mathematics (honors). Hailing from a poor working-class family, she wanted to become an IAS officer. Her parents had mortgaged a one-bedroom house for Rs 2 Lakh loan to finance her education.

"Her sister had to drop out of school last year because of financial issues. She could have been in class IX now, but for Aishwarya's education she had to drop out," said Unnimaya, general secretary of LSR Students' Union.

She left a suicide note in which she clearly mentioned that her family is facing financial issues and she can't endure it.

Due to her excellent result in Class XII examinations, she was selected for the INSPIRE scholarship given by the Ministry of Science and Technology, Government of India. She was supposed to receive the first installment in March. "It is apparent from her letter that she did not receive it due to the Pandemic. It was allegedly conveyed to her that the scholarship amount could only come after the conclusion of the second year," said Unnimaya.

The pressure of vacating the hostel

During the 2019 summer vacation, students of LSR College received a text message from the administration to vacate the hostel.

"Kindly note that henceforth hostel will be available to first-year students for one year only. They will have to vacate the hostel at the end of their first year in May. There will be no further intake of third-year students. This is as per General Body resolution to promote inclusivity by implementing constitutional reservations and to provide a secure environment to a large number of students from various parts of India in their first year. All students who are admitted to the hostel in their first year will have to make alternate arrangements for their stay in Delhi in their second and third years of study at LSR College," read the message.

The Hostel Union came to know about the abrupt decision after it was brought out in the first counseling session for the 1st year students.

"Once it was officially declared, we mailed the principal and the warden condemning the decision. We received a reply from the Principal stating: `The decision of conversion to 1st year happened in the account of implementation of constitutional reservations (OBC), according to Supreme Court guidelines. The EWS reservation would be provided soon. So the number of intakes will increase and the hostel can accommodate only a certain number of students. The ones already staying in hostels in 2019 (then 2nd and 3rd years) won't be affected'. In the name of inclusivity and implementing OBC reservation, the college violated section 33 of Delhi University Act" said Unimaya.

Aishwarya's batch was the first one who had to vacate the hostel in the second year. But due to the pandemic, she returned home and was staying with her parents. "The college and hostel were shut on March 15 due to the pandemic. A mail was sent to the Principal on March 17 requesting her to have a meeting regarding hostel issues. Unfortunately, we did not receive any reply. On March 26, the warden informed us that the GB meeting is on hold due to the pandemic. She also mentioned that therefore the current decision will remain in vogue," said Nida, senior coordinator of Hostel Union at LSR.

Section 33 of the Delhi University Act clearly states that every student of the University (other than a student who pursues a course of study by correspondence) shall reside in a College a Hall or under such conditions as may be prescribed by the Ordinances.

While Aishwarya was at home, she received a notice from the college on September 27 asking her to vacate the hostel. "Living as Paying Guest costs around Rs 30,000. A bit far away from college it will cost Rs 20,000. This was not at all the option for Aishwarya. Her family couldn't afford it," said Unnimaya.

Digital Divide

After Delhi University decided to start online classes, LSR College also decided to follow the suit. Aishwarya was one of the students from a lower socio-economic background. "The schedule for the online classes was starting at 8:45 am. While this would have been okay during college hours, it was a bit difficult for students at home given their responsibilities and house chores,"' said Unnimaya.

The students had to attend 6 to 7 lectures every day. For students not having broadband or Wi-Fi connection, it was a tough ask. "The students had to attend 6-7 hours every day. Everyone doesn't have the infrastructure or resources," she said.

Aishwarya was also facing the problem because of the online classes. However, she had answered the survey conducted by the Committee for Inclusive education under the LSR students union. Below are the answers from Aishwarya:

Do you have a proper internet connection for regular online classes?

- No

Do you have to spend additionally for data packs?

- Yes

How many hours of classes happen per day?

- 5-8 hours

How much are you able to attend with your current data pack?

- Less than 3 hours

Have you received your entire textbook/ study material?

- No

Do you have access to Laptops/PCs?

- No

If you have any practical subjects are they being taught well?

- No

If no, why?

- "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"

Are you able to attend your scheduled classes at your home comfortably?

- No

Do you have household responsibilities to attend to? Does this clash with your time table?

- Yes

Have the increased hours of classes affected your mental/physical health?

- Yes

On November 9, Aishwarya's parents told Indian Express that she had asked for a laptop and they told her to wait for a few more days so that they can arrange some money. "She was pursuing her graduation in Mathematics. She required certain tools and applications which can only run on a laptop or a computer system," said Unnimaya.

Not getting the INSPIRE scholarship, vacating the hostel and not able to cope with the online classes are a few of the reasons her family and friends are coming up with upon which Aisharwaya took the extreme step to take her own life. "This is how an institution murder a life, by killing their dreams, not allowing to aspire to be a well-educated person, stops a person to reach the steps to get a formal education. Aishwarya is murdered by the institutions," added Unnimaya.

Aishwarya's suicide note

"No one is responsible for my death. My family had to bear a lot of expenses because of me. I am a burden on them. My education is a burden to them. But I cannot live without being able to pursue my education. I have been giving this much thought and felt death is the right thing for me. People may try and find deplorable reasons for my death. But I know I am not doing anything wrong. Please make sure that the INSPIRE scholarship is sustained for at least a year. Please forgive me. I am not a good daughter," Aishwarya wrote before taking her life.

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