In the past 9-10 months, we have heard the word "unprecedented" being clubbed with "pandemic" repeatedly and used it like there exists no other way to describe the current time and crisis. We have all heard it, read it, and most of us are painfully tired of it now. But here's the thing: even to be tired of the pandemic is a privilege that not everyone can afford.
In shocking news, Aishwarya Reddy, a B.Sc. Mathematics (Honours) student from Lady Shri Ram college hung herself to death earlier this month. In a purported suicide note that has been allegedly left behind by her, Aishwarya has cited her family's dismal economic condition and the struggles to continue her education as the reason behind the same.
“Because of me, my family is facing many financial problems. I am a burden for my family. My education is a burden. If I can’t study, I can’t live,” the note reads.
As per reports, she was a high school topper, had scored 98.5 percent in Class 12, and was also an IAS aspirant. She had returned to her home in Telangana in February after the college shut down due to the pandemic. However, she was finding it difficult to continue with online classes on her phone and had requested her father to arrange a second-hand laptop for the same.
In an interaction with The Indian Express, Aishwarya's father Srinivas Reddy revealed that the family was in huge debt and had also mortgaged their one-bedroom house to support Aishwarya's education. He further shared that the financial situation got even more strenuous during the pandemic and he did not even have the money to send her back to Delhi, forget buying a laptop.
The girl has mentioned the INSPIRE scholarship in her suicide note, was a recipient of the same but as per her family, the money had been delayed this year. Aishwarya's family also shared that she had been asked to vacate the college hostel by the authorities in October. This was, of course, concerning given that her family was struggling to make ends meet and there was no way that they could afford renting a room or a PG in Delhi.
LSR's principal Suman Sharma in the recent media statement has however said that Aishwarya had not reached out to the college for financial assistance: “It is a huge loss for us and it is very unfortunate that we were unable to help her. However, she had never approached any teacher from the mathematics department or hostel authorities with her issues. The college has many schemes and scholarships but she never asked for assistance," she shared.
However, LSR's reaction to the issue is not sitting well with people as they question the college for pressuring an underprivileged student to come all the way to Delhi in the middle of a pandemic and vacate her room. They are calling it "institutional murder" and asking the college authorities as well as the central government for accountability in the case.
The SFI Delhi (Student Federation of India) has also joined in the protest and is demanding #justiceforAishwarya as they call out LSR for partaking in the "institutional murder."
The All India Democratic Women's Association (AIDWA) has also issued a statement on Aishwarya's death. "We are dismayed by the recent death of a promising young woman, who came to study in the National Capital with a bundle of dreams. A second-year BA Mathematics student of LSR College was forced to end her life on 3 November 2020," the statement read.
AIDWA further stated, "Hailing from Telangana's Rangareddy district, she was a topper in the state in class 12. She comes from a modest family background where sending a daughter for higher education in Delhi was itself a challenge. It enforced financial burden to the family so much so that her parents were forced to mortgage their house to send their daughter to Delhi University," the statement further read. But, this bright student was faced with hurdles and miseries as her own fellowship was not credited for over a year, which was due as an installment in March 2020."
Sadly, it was only after another LSR student decided to post about Aishwarya's death earlier today that the news actually got out. The netizens are also shaken by the news and loss of a bright student to financial adversity. Here's what they have to say:
Well, while the current pandemic might be "unprecedented," we know what's not: the plight of the poor in India. The pandemic has thoroughly laid bare the social faultlines of the country. The fact that during the same crisis the rich were flown down with special evacuation operations while the poor were left to fend for their lives and cover thousands of kilometers on feet just to reach their homes proves just that.
It is really a matter of great concern that an underprivileged student from one of the most prestigious colleges in India was asked to come down to Delhi all the way from Telangana just to vacate her hostel room during a pandemic. However, it is a matter of greater concern that we as a country have failed Aishwarya and every other aspiring student who has big dreams, great talent, but not the economic resources to reach their goal. We are sorry Aishwarya. Here's hoping that your loss will nudge the authorities into action and no other bright mind has to lose their life ever again simply because of financial struggles.
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