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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

HPU VC Faces Backlash After Varsity Releases PG Merit List Without Settling UG Results

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ABVP Protest at HPU against suspension 3

Shimla– The Vice-Chancellor of Himachal Pradesh Univesity, Sikander Kumar, is facing backlash from students after he made the varsity a laughing stock by releasing merits list for PG classes without completely declaring and settling results of UG classes.

Both student organisations, Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) and Student Federation of India (SFI) are up in arms against the VC, alleging him of incompetence to handle the affairs of the varsity properly. Also, both students organizations have been alleging the varsity of irregularities in admissions to P.hD and MCA.  

The students are alleging that not only the dictatorial attitude of the VC mentally harassing thousands of students across the state but also harassing those students who are protesting against prevailing disorder and irregularities in the working of the authorities.

It’s pertinent to mention that the varsity on Thursday suspended 10 members of the ABVP for staging protest over delay and irregularities in the UG results due which students were facing huge inconvenience.

ABVP, during another protest on July 19, termed it a dictatorial and one-sided action aimed at suppressing the voices protesting against corruption and the harassments students were facing.

SFI also criticized this action of the varsity. Irrespective of the organization to which they belong, SFI condemns the suspension of these students who were protesting against prevailing disorder at the campus, said SFI campus secretary Jeevan Thakur.

Today, ABVP staged another protest over the suspension of its members at the campus in which students laid down on the ground pretending to be dead bodies, terming it a symbolic representation of the future of students.

ABVP Protest at HPU against suspension5

The students warned that a movement similar to JP Narayan of 1975 that was organized to end the emergency like situation would be re-created against VC’s dictatorship.  ABVP demanded to revoke the suspension of 10 students and properly declare the UG results. The organization warned that if the varsity does not accept these demands, a massive protest would be organized on July 22 – the foundation day of HPU. Chandel has warned that not even the Chief Minister would be allowed to enter the varsity campus on that day.

ABVP Protest at HPU against suspension6

SFI also alleged the current VC of adopting a completely dictatorial attitude towards students and raised questions over the working of the varsity authorities.

The varsity failed to settle the results of the sixth semester of UG classes by July 19. The students are compelled to visit the varsity themselves to get their results corrected. Moreover, without settling UG results, the varsity has released the merit lists of the entrance exams for PG classes, said SFI.

It said the VC is more concerned about protecting his staff responsible for creating disorder and indulging in corrupt practices. Letters with false allegations against them were being sent to the parents of those students who were taking part in protests, which is leading to mental harassment of both students and parents, SFI alleged.

Students are being treated like captives in hostels. Even 24×7 library was made inaccessible to students. The inter-hostel outing in girl hostels was also suspended, said SFI.

The campus president of SFI Vikram Thakur alleged that the varsity is consistently depriving students of their democratic rights. He urged the students to unite in order to end this dictatorial attitude of the VC.

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Campus Watch

UHF Nauni’s Ranks 12 Among India’s Agri Universities, Improves by 26 Places

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UHF Nauni Ranks 12 among India's agro universities

Solan-The Dr YS Parmar University of Horticulture and Forestry (UHF), Nauni, has been ranked at 12th position in the ranking of agricultural universities and research institutes conducted by the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR). It’s an improvement considering the fact that in 2016, UHF was placed at 51st position, which is improved to 38 in 2017. This year the university improved 26 places to bag 12th position in this ranking.

The rankings were released earlier this week at the ICAR Foundation Day held at New Delhi, which was attended by UHF Vice-Chancellor Dr Parvinder Kaushal. This year the university has improved 26 places in the list.

In all, 60 agricultural universities of India featured in the ranking this year. The universities were judged on parameters like student and faculty profile, publications and citations, research, technologies commercialized etc.  

The National Dairy Research Institute (NDRI), Karnal, and the Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI), New Delhi, have been ranked at first and second places respectively in this rankings. GB Pant University of Agriculture and Technology, Pantnagar and Haryana Agriculture University, Hisar have bagged the third and fourth positions respectively. Panjab Agriculture University, Ludhiana and Guru Angad Dev Veterinary and Animal Sciences University, Ludhiana are at seventh and eighth positions respectively.

The university has been continuously ranked among the top universities in the country. For the past three years, UHF has been the highest-ranked university in Himachal Pradesh in the Union Ministry of Human Resource Development’s NIRF rankings. This year, the university had achieved 80th position in the top 100 universities in the country and was the only one from the state to find a place in this list.

The University has performed quite well on various parameters including the performance of students in ICAR NET, JRF, SRF and other state and national level competitive examinations. As per the university, the excellent placement of students in public and private enterprises, quality publications, technology transfer initiatives, implementation of ICAR Deans’ committee recommendations, timely release of grants from the state government and internal revenue generation were areas, which helped the university to register this big jump in rankings.

 Speaking at the occasion, Dr Parvinder Kaushal congratulated the students, faculty, and the staff of the university on the achievement and lauded their efforts for the betterment of the university and the agriculture community. Dr Kaushal said that in order to compete with global universities, UHF would strengthen students’ placement and career development, and linkages with world-class institutions. He added that the university will continue to strive in the areas of academic, research and extension education and work towards realizing the goal of doubling farmers’ income.

 

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Campus Watch

Enraged Over Suspension of 10 Students, ABVP Stages Protest at HPU Campus, Alleges Varsity of One-Sided Action  

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ABVP Protest at HPU over suspension of members

Shimla-The Himachal Pradesh University unit of Akhil Bhartiya Parishad today staged an aggressive protest at the campus over the suspension of its 10 members. The student organization alleged the university authority of one-sided action.

The unit secretary Ankit Chandel said that ABVP had held a protest at the campus on July 11, 2019 over delay and irregularities in the declaration of results of UG classes. For this protest, the varsity on Thursday suspended 10 students.
ABVP Protest at HPU over suspension of members 3

Chandel alleged that when the employees hold protests outside the office of Vice-Chancellor, no action is taken. However, on the other hand, when a student organization stages protest, then its members are suspended in a biased manner.

Earlier, ABVP entered the office of VC to submit their demand to declare results of UG classes. The organization said that the results for the second and fourth semester of UG classes have not been declared. As many as 5000 students were facing problems in their admissions due to this delay, ABVP said. However, when students did not find the VC or any other staff at the office to attend to them, they shouted slogans against the administration for over two hours.

Chandel alleged that the varsity is adopting various tactics to suppress the voices protesting against the irregularities in the working of the administration.  While thousands of students are facing huge inconvenience due to delay and irregularities in the declaration of results, the varsity is leaving no stone unturned to give itself a pat on its back, he said.
ABVP Protest at HPU over suspension of members 2

Chandel reminded that cases of irregularities in admissions to P.hD and MCA were reported about nine months ago. When students protested against it, their voice was suppressed instead of taking action.

ABVP has warned the varsity authority of not interfering with the working of the student organization and instead mind its own job.  The organization has also demanded to revoke the suspension of its members. Otherwise, it warned, a state-wide protest would be held against the varsity. ABVP also demanded to declare complete results of UG classes immediately.   

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