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‘Blue Whale’ in Himachal – Reminder why trained counselors in schools has become a necessity now

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blue whale game in Himachal

The appearance of a case related to controversial Blue Whale game in Solan district of Himachal Pradesh has sounded the alarmed among the parents. A 12-years-old boy was luckily rescued after his parents discovered signs of self-mutilation on his hand.

So far, Himachal Watcher refrained from covering the Blue Whale Phenomenon as we felt bound by the ethics of reporting news relating to suicide. The news channels and dailies did what exactly the creator of this concept wanted from them – creating more curiosity in vulnerable subjects through sensational coverage. Numerous stories were published using some sensational images showing a whale drenched in blood or something like that.

From our sources, we were told that schools are implementing the advisory in a haphazard manner which is doing nothing else but to create more curiosity among children, especially teens.

Until now, the awareness about mental health and relevance of trained counselors were entirely missing from schools as a necessity to deal with complex teenage issues. For instance, not many of us are aware that the World Suicide Prevention Day 2017 is observed on September 10 every year to create necessary awareness. There is a reason why the world needed to dedicate a special day to attend to the issue. It’s preventable.

So, we feel obliged to take part in the debate to introduce some more aspects.

First of all, it is not exactly a game that can be downloaded and installed in devices. Bullying and pressurizing participants to complete the task are major parts of this concept. The participants receive a link through one of the social media. As suggested by some tech-forums, the participants are asked to accept a cookie that allows the curator to access entire data of the device being used by the participant.

Secondly, Blue Whale is not the only name by which this concept has spread to the social media. The same concept is being adapted under different names. There could be a number of such groups. 

After several incidents in some parts of India, the appearance of a case related to controversial Blue Whale game in Solan district of Himachal Pradesh has sounded the alarmed among the parents. A 12-years-old boy was luckily rescued after his parents discovered signs of self-mutilation on his hand.

The boy said he wanted to quit the game but he could not. He received threats from the curator or the admin. The boy said the curator warned him that if he doesn’t accomplish the tasks assigned, his parents or family members would be harmed.

The fear was instilled so strongly in the victim child that he did not dare to speak to his parents.

The disclosure by the rescued boy that more of his friends are hooked to this lethal challenge has sent waves of panic among parents. At the same time, media reporting is fueling curiosity in masses. The advisories issued to children and their parents by the police and the schools are also doing the same.

People, government, and web experts are feeling helpless against this psychological trap of the ‘deep web’. The psychologists are suggesting the curators does not pick up its prey randomly, but from a targeted section that is more vulnerable. Apart from access to the digital world, the mental health of teens requires close attention here.

Now, the government of India is issuing advisories in the schools asking them to create awareness against the suicidal game. The government has connected to the social media sites asking them to act and take preventive measures. In fact, social media sites are working on it as the number of cases reported is now in three figures.

However, the parents and schools are required to pay more attention to the psychology behind the concept that is believed to have originated from Russia. A Russian man was reportedly convicted for inventing the concept or spreading it to suicide groups. Recently, another curator, a Russian girl, was reportedly arrested. 

Psychology behind the concept

It sounds stupid and unbelievable that a person could convince or control someone through a psychological manipulation or through threats to complete abnormal tasks and end his/her life by the time the series of task reaches its final stage. In India, psychology has not received the amount of attention it deserves in the society. Even most costly or prestigious schools do not have a regular counselor, which supports the aforesaid statement.

Majority of experts in the field of psychology suggest not all children or teens are vulnerable to this threat. The teenage period is marked by high-risk taking behavior. The experts also link it with poor mental health, depression, and pre-existing tendencies towards self-destruction or inclination to harm one’s own self. Teens with depression, low-esteem, identity conflicts, emotional breakups, and those with traumatic experiences including child abuse are more prone to fall victim to this game, say experts.

Sadly, schools are not providing professional counselors, who could prove much better in observing these indicators in a child during school hours as well as creating awareness among other teachers and parents. There is a huge difference between the role of a teacher and that of a trained, skilled psychologist.

Children, especially teens go through tremendous behavioral changes during teenage- a natural process. Teenagers strive to establish their individual identity in their friend circle. They tend to assess their importance in their circle. Introverts and those with low-esteem or low level of achievements often face an identity crisis

, said Ranjana Sharma, a scholar pursuing her research related to the “Quality of Life” from Department of Himachal Pradesh University.

It sounds impractical for teachers to attend to each individual student in their class or identify such cases. Moreover, we must accept that the new generation gets hooked to electronic devices like mobiles and the Internet from a tender age. Their exposure and access to the world are far greater than the previous generation,

she said adding,

This exposure requires to be channelized through proper guidance as it is impractical to put a complete check on it.

Nowadays, the teens are more tech-savvy than their parents, which makes it difficult for parents to monitor what exactly their children doing on their smartphones and laptops, she added. 

The description of the Blue Whale concept, methods, and design of tasks suggest enhancing already existing tendencies by creating an illusion that someone is being part of something daring. The participants are first conditioned to follow an abnormal routine like waking up at odd hours (between 2 AM to 4 AM), watching depressing videos sent by the curator, climbing up a building, to stand on the edge of the roof, or listen to gloomy music tracks at a particular time.

A survivor said he was asked to go to the graveyard at 2 PM and send a selfie as evidence that task was completed. Self-inflicted injuries are given a form of an act of punishing oneself, suggest psychologists.

The best prevention here appears to be giving more time to your children, at least enough to observe changes in their behavior, if any. The advisories are asking parents to reach a counselor if they observe symptoms like isolation, withdrawal from routine activities, and a decrease in the time that their children used to spend with them or the appetite.  

If a child is already an introvert, then it must be ensured that he gets more time from parents to express his emotions. A friendly relationship would help bridge the communication gap between the teens and their parents.  

Madan has studied English Literature and Journalism from HP University and lives in Shimla. He is an amateur photographer and has been writing on topics ranging from environmental, socio-economic, development programs, education, eco-tourism, eco-friendly lifestyle and to green technologies for over 9 years now. He has an inclination for all things green, wonderful and loves to live in solitude. When not writing, he can be seen wandering, trying to capture the world around him in his DSLR lens.

Campus Watch

UHF Nauni Bags Rs.25 Crore Funding, Set for Major Overhaul

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UHF Nauni gets IDI funds

Solan: The learning and teaching environment at the Dr YS Parmar University of Horticulture and Forestry (UHF), Nauni is set for a major overhaul under the Indian Council of Agricultural Research’s (ICAR) National Agricultural Higher Education Plan (NAHEP) funded by the World Bank, informed the Public Relation Officer, Suchet Attri. He said that under NAHEP, UHF has been awarded the prestigious Institutional Development Project  (IDP). The total outlay of the three-year project is Rs 25 crore with ICAR share of Rs 20 crore and Rs 5 crore funded by the state.

He said that this is one of the biggest projects in UHF’s history and a major achievement for the university. It will help to provide a holistic learning and teaching environment to the students and faculty as scientists and students will be exposed to foreign universities to learn and exchange researchable ideas and issues. The University Vice-Chancellor is the project leader while Dr KK Raina, Professor and Head, Department of Business Management is the coordinator and Principal Investigator of the overall project, he informed.  

The main objective of the project entitled ‘Quality Education in Horticulture and Forestry to generate Human Resource’ is to revamp the university’s UG education through innovative and modern pedagogy, skill development, improving placement opportunities and catalyzing entrepreneurship through global thinking and input. He further said that under IDP, the university will look to strengthen collaborations with leading academia and industry for student exchange and faculty development programmes. 

He informed that around 150 UG students and 50 faculty members will be selected through a competition, to visit top-flight foreign universities for a period of 3-6 months. Organization of webinars and seminars, workshops and capacity building, and engaging industry experts as adjunct faculty is also included in the project. In addition to the creation of several student amenities, the university will establish UG and language labs for improving soft skills, eight smart and two virtual classrooms. He said that the project will also push green initiatives like the use of solar energy for cooking, lighting, use of battery-operated vehicles, solid waste management and recycling, campus landscaping and development of nature parks.

He said that one of the highlights will be the development of Short-Term International Certificate course on temperate horticulture and forestry crops and the strengthening of Student Development and Career Development Cell by developing a proactive industrial interface to create job and internship opportunities. Remedial courses, special attention towards weak students, agri-incubation centres on hi-tech plant nursery, processed food and forest products for entrepreneurial and agribusiness skills will also be taken up during the course of the project.

He further informed that several works have already begun under the project, and initiatives like raising new plantations have been undertaken. The students are eagerly looking forward to this project and have been actively taking part in all activities. A review meeting of the core project team and the statutory officers under the chairmanship of the Vice-Chancellor was held on Saturday. Director Extension Education Dr PK Mahajan, Deans Dr Bhupinder Gupta and Dr ML Bhardwaj also took part in the meeting. 

“This is a very proud moment for the university as we are among the national group that has got grants under this project. It will help us to improve the work culture and change the outlook of the students by providing a holistic learning environment. Besides, it will also help to enhance the quality of study and potential of the faculty will be fully utilized,”

said Dr Parvinder Kaushal, UHF Vice-Chancellor.

He said that only a select few agricultural universities have managed to bag the project through nation-wide competition.

The university will further focus on skill enhancement of students through study programmes with international collaborations and provide an inclusive and equitable quality education for the students through the faculty development programme. Dr Kaushal added that under the project, the university will ensure the sustainability of quality education and system effectiveness through the strengthening of the University Alumni network and industry interface. 

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Campus Watch

Nauni Varsity UG Admission Process Revised, No Entrance Exam, Seats to be Allotted on 10+2 Merit

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Solan-uhf nauni ug admissions 2020-21 session

Solan-Dr YS Parmar University of Horticulture and Forestry (UHF), Nauni has revised the admission process for its undergraduate programmes for the academic session 2020-21 in view of the COVID 19 pandemic. This year, the university will not be conducting an entrance test to fill the normal seats of UG programmes. The decision in this regard was taken during a special meeting of the Academic Council meeting held recently.

The basis of admission for normal seats would be merit drawn on basis of marks obtained at 10+2 level examination in four subjects-English, Physics, Chemistry and Biology/ Mathematics plus weightage of participation in sports/ NCC, NSS, scouting, co-curricular activities (if any). The university offers three undergraduate programmes B Sc (Hons) Horticulture, B Sc (Hons) Forestry while B Tech Biotechnology is offered only at the COH&F Neri. 

The candidates have been advised to download the counselling proforma from the university website and fill it as per the instructions mentioned on it. Those students who want to be considered for both normal as well as self-financing seats need to fill two separate proformas. A single page pdf file must be created, containing scanned filled counselling proforma along with legible documents mentioned in the checklist as provided in the counselling proforma. No column must be left blank. The counselling proforma for normal seats and self-financing seats will be uploaded on the university website on 3rd August (afternoon) and 5th August (afternoon) respectively.

For normal seats: The scanned pdf file must be sent through email to [email protected] on or before 18th August, 2020.

For self-financing seats: The scanned pdf file must be sent by email to [email protected] on or before 20th August, 2020. Every candidate must submit the duly filled counselling proforma in order to be considered for the admission. The detailed notification can be downloaded from the university website.

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Campus Watch

HPBOSE Syllabus to be Reduced by 30% for 2020-21 Session Following CBSE’s Lead

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HPBose Syllabus 2020-21

Dharamshala: The syllabus of Himachal Pradesh School of Board Education from 9th to 12th classes would be reduced by 30 percent following the lead of CBSE.  The Board today constituted a five-member committee for this purpose, informed Chairman of HPBOSE, Dr Suresh Kumar Soni. The step is being taken considering the disruption to regular classroom study of students due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The committee comprises of Deputy Secretaries Anjali Saini and Sudarshan Kumar, and Anil Naag – the principal, Senior secondary School, Sulah, Kangra district-and Vijay Sharam- the principal, GSSS Daroh, Kangra. The fifth member would be Dimple Kanwar.

The Board also held a workshop in which experts in Hindi, Political Science, History, Geography, and Psychology subjects gave their opinion regarding the syllabus.

Further, the Chairman said that emphasis would be laid on reducing the syllabus for the board classes. Exclusion of topics from syllabus would be done in accordance with suggestions received from subject experts, he said.

The teachers should keep in mind that the students do not remain deprived of knowledge but at the same time keep the stress of syllabus off them, he said. He asked the teachers to not include any questions in exams from the topics which would be excluded from the syllabus. A proposal regarding it would be submitted to the state government for its approval, he informed.

Earlier this month, CBSE had announced a reduction in its syllabus for students of class 9 to 12. For class 11, CBSE had excluded chapters on federalism in the Constitution, political theory sections on citizenship, secularism and nationalism. For class 12, India’s relations with its neighbours, sections on social movement, regional aspirations, the changing nature of India’s economic development, and the Planning Commission were excluded.

For class 10, CBSE had excluded the chapter on forest and wildlife in contemporary India from social science. Besides it, chapters on democracy and diversity; gender religion and caste, popular struggles and movements, and challenges to democracy have also be removed. For science classes, the students would not have to study the human eye functioning, a section on concepts of evolution, several practical experiments, like tests on acetic acid, mounting a leaf peel, and studying the comparative cleaning capacity of soap in hard and soft, water were also removed from the syllabus.

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