Protestors demand resignation of Science and Technology Minister Harshvardhan as Aishwarya, a recipient of INSPIRE scheme, took extreme step after not receiving scholarship since March
Mohd Aasif | Clarion India
NEW DELHI – Several student organisations staged a protest in front of the Technology Bhavan, headquarters of the Department of Science and Technology (DoST) on Monday demanding resignation of Science and Technology Minister Harshvardhan. They were protesting against the death of Aishwarya, a second-year student of Delhi’s Lady Shri Ram College for Women. She committed suicide last week at her hometown in Telangana. She has cited financial troubles in a purported suicide note.
Aishwarya, a promising student of Mathematics Honours, was a recipient of “INSPIRE” scholarship scheme of the DoST. But she had not received the scholarship ever since lockdown was announced in March. Her father, who is a motorcycle mechanic in Ranga Reddy district, told Indian Express that she was an IAS aspirant but the family was unable even to buy her a second-hand laptop to pursue online classes during the pandemic.
“Aishwarya was compelled to take this extreme step due to the circumstances that emerged because of an unplanned lockdown and the ministry not releasing scholarship amount. For us, Aishwarya’s suicide is an institutionalised murder of a promising student coming from an underprivileged background”, said Sumit Kataria, Delhi state president of Student Federation of India (SFI).
Holding no one responsible for her death, Aishwarya, in her suicide note, called herself and her education a burden on the family. “I cannot live without studying. I’ve been thinking for many days and I felt like death is the correct option for me. People will try to establish some reasons for my death but I’ve not committed any sin”, she wrote, requesting to ensure that the INSPIRE scholarship is at least given for a year.
JNUSU President Aishe Ghosh said that the government hasn’t released scholarships for students since the lockdown. Aishwarya committed suicide precisely due to the financial strain of this posed. This government has her blood on their hands.
“We do not perceive this as a simple case of suicide, but as an institutional murder by the extremely apathetic university and governmental institutions, which are structurally exclusionary. This systemic exclusion must end”, she added.
Talking to Clarion India, Principal of LSR College, Dr. Suman Sharma, called the incident unfortunate and a great loss to the institution. “College only attest the documents related to the INSPIRE fellowship and then it’s directly credited into their bank accounts by the Ministry of Science and Technology if they are selected. College does not disburse the scholarship”, she added.
Dr. Sharma said that the college never received any request in writing from the deceased student regarding her financial condition. “We checked the record for her request. We have waived off fees of a couple of students who requested for the same”, she added.
The LSR Students Union had conducted a survey of the students coming from socially and economically weak backgrounds. “The Inclusive Committee for Education set up under the LSR SU has repeatedly sent emails to the administration but all in vain as they did not receive any fruitful response”, said Unnimaya, general secretary of LSR Students Union, in a statement.
Talking about the financial and social background of the deceased student, Unnimaya said, “Aishwarya had taken a loan to study in which her house had been mortgaged and in the pandemic the financial strain intensified. She was also affected by the sudden decision of the LSR administration to revoke hostel facility of all continuing students and to only give it to the first years from now on. She had been asked during an ongoing pandemic to vacate her hostel”.
A two-member delegation consisting of LSR SU general secretary Unnimaya and SFI Delhi joint secretary Mounica Sri Sai met the officials at the DoST headquarters and submitted a memorandum. Students demanded that Aishwarya’s family should be provided reasonable compensation in lieu of the ministry’s neglect, and the pending scholarship amount.
“Students coming from marginalized sections are committing suicide on a large scale. Government must take necessary actions immediately to safeguard the student community”, reads the other demand of the memorandum.