Jasmine, a 14-year-old class nine student, committed suicide within hours of a heated exchange on Wednesday between her father and her teachers over non-payment of school fees. She couldn’t bear the inhumane treatment and humiliation afflicted on her father and family in full public view by the school and was forced to take her own life.
Jasmine took her life because her humiliated father couldn’t manage to pay tuition fee dues of Rs 12,000 to her school, DPS Public School Ghaziabad. Four teachers involved in the incident have been arrested since.
But her death has raised some disturbing questions about the way most private schools operate in India; the insensitivity on part of the school management and teachers for whom a school is a money-minting machine; the police, who instead of acting against the school, booked and detained Jasmine’s father Ratan Singh Tomar. Tomar is a poor guy who works with a security agency in Ghaziabad, on false and baseless charges.
But the most disturbing aspect of this whole episode that should outrage any right-minded person, is the fact that school teachers wilfully turned into recovery agents. They landed in groups and used psychological tricks to recover small dues. Their message – how dare you enrol your child in a private school if you didn’t have the capacity to pay the fees without any delay.
Let us consider the facts first because the news has largely been centred in local pages of newspapers. The deceased girl neither belonged to an economically well-off community or a socially- and politically-sensitive community; nor was the school well known so as to send the TRPs or readership soaring. So neither was there a media hype or a question of political agenda.
Since the school was acting tough against Jasmine, her father, Ratan Singh Tomar, who was going through a rough financial phase, removed her from that private school and admitted her in a government school, Guru Nanak Inter College, in Lohia Nagar, nearly a week ago.
The news, perhaps, infuriated the school management and it decided to go for the most drastic option; perhaps something that they must have employed in the past – to send a group of teachers as extortionists, led by the acting principal.
These so-called teachers took to the role of recovery agents and applied the same tricks as those agents – or the goons hired by some private money lending agencies. It didn’t matter that two of Jasmine’s younger sisters still studied in that school.
Half a dozen teachers landed at Tomar’s rented house, demanding payment of the Rs 12,000 dues, warning him of dire consequences, and then calling the police on false charges of physical harassment. The Ghaziabad, UP police acted swiftly. Picked up Tomar from his home and detained him in the police station.
Jasmine was left alone in the house and later on in the day, neighbours found her body hanging. News of her death reached her father while he was still in the custody of local police. Her death obviously rattled the senior police officers.
Though the police hav now registered a case of abetment of suicide against some teachers, including the acting principal Shashi, there is still no word as to why the police booked and detained Tomar when the charges of harassment against the lady teachers were false.
No action so far has been taken against the school management. It would be naive to think that school principal and teachers turned into recovery agents on their own, without the knowledge of their paying masters.
The brass in the government should ponder, that why thousands of parents like Tomar trust sundry private schools, even as these teaching shops’ sole intention is to extract money, over government schools, that are almost free.
Jasmine’s life has been forsaken. But there is a fear, that her death would just add to the statistics of young-age suicides.