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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.  

Stay updated on the go with Himachal Watcher News App. Click here to download it for your android device.

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 7 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 world around him in his DSLR lens.

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Internationally famed Indian violinist Johar Ali Khan performs at KV Jakhoo Hills, Shimla  

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SPIC Macy at KV Jakhoo hills 4

Shimla: The students and staff of Kendriya Vidyalaya Jakhoo Hills, Shimla, today, received an opportunity to watch the internationally famed Indian classical violinist Ustad Jauhar Ali Khan performing live. The occasion was an event organized by the Promotion of Indian Classical Music and Culture Among Youngster (SPIC MACY) – a non-profit organization formed in 1977 by Dr Kiran Seth with an aim to promote classical music.

SPIC Macy at KV Jakhoo hills 3

After 40 years of journey, the SPIC MACY is a movement to reckon with that has done a pioneer work in the promotion of not only Indian classical music but also in promotion of classical dance, folk music, yoga, meditation etc.  at national and international level.

SPIC Macy at KV Jakhoo hills 2

Khan is the elder son of late Gohar Ali Khan – the legendary artist of the traditional Patiala and Rampur ‘Gharaana’ (family).

In a duet with Indian ‘Tabala Vadak’, Amir Khan, Ustad Khan offered glimpses of rich and incredibly diverse Indian music of various states. It was followed by a session of ‘Sufi’ music performance.

SPIC Macy at KV Jakhoo hills

The artist also interacted with the teachers and the students regarding their knowledge about the Indian music. He appreciated the students of the school for their keen interest in music and encouraged them to pursue and promote what actually belongs to them – the Indian classical music and cultural heritage.

You should make music an integral part of your life and carry it forward to the coming generations,

he told the students after the performance.  

The artist concluded the event with the performance of a patriotic song.

The Principal of the school honoured the artist by presenting him a traditional cap of Himachal.

The staff and students are very fortunate to have received this opportunity to watch such a renowned Indian artist perform at their school,

said the Principal in the concluding speech.  

The Principal also expressed gratitude towards the SPIC MACY for the organization of such a harmonious event.

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HPU’s disabled students demand stay on M.Phil, Ph.D entrance exam results

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Disabled Students Association of Himachal Pradesh

Shimla: The Himachal Pradesh University has scheduled the counseling for M.Phil for October 27, 2017. However, the disabled students, who had been demanding implementation of the reservation from some time, have opposed the move.

The Disabled Students Association (DSA) has written to the Governor of Himachal Pradesh Acharya Devvrat and urged him to immediately prohibit the HPU of declaring the M.Phil and Ph.D entrance exams results.

Earlier, a delegation of the Association had met the Vice-Chancellor in September this year and submitted a memorandum demanding reservation of seats in MPhil and PhD under the Rights of Persons with Disability Act, 2016. 

However, it did not brought any relief to them.

Today, the distressed members of the association alleged the university of not implementing the five percent reservation quota provided under the new disability law despite the directions passed by the State High Court.

After the court passed its orders this August, the university implemented the provisions of the new Act and gave admission to the disabled students in M.A. and B.Ed courses.

However, the university is following the decades-old roster system while conducting admission in M.Phil and P.hD, which is contrary to law.

The DSA convener Mukesh Kumar wrote a letter to the Governor saying that it would attract the contempt of court if the disabled students are not accommodated in M.Phil and Ph.D as per the orders of the court.

He said,

The new disability law was supposed to be implemented across the country from April 19, 2017. When the university did not follow the Act, one of the blind students, Indu Kumari of Chamba, wrote a letter to the Chief Justice of the High Court, which was treated as a PIL

Thereafter, keeping in view the strict directions of the court, the university was compelled to enroll the disabled students in the PG classes, but is still reluctant to amend the old roster system for research classes.

The matter is listed in the High Court for hearing on 31st October, said the DSA.

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Court compels HPU to implement 5% reservation quota for disabled students

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rti in braille from blind

The varsity had to deliver what it owed to these students. Now, the students have also been provided with hostel facility.

Shimla: A visually impaired girl of Himachal Pradesh knocked the doors of the State High Court in June this year after the HP University denied her admission in the post-graduate course despite provision for five percent reservation.

Indu Kumari was not the only one to face the apathy of the varsity administration. There were other disabled students like Ravinder Thakur, Jitender Kumar, and Vijay Kumar, who had paved their way upto college despite their disability but were sent back by the varsity.

The disabled students had to form the Disabled Students Association (DSA) to highlight the fact that hundreds of disabled students are being denied education in the state.

Apparently, the court pulled up the state government and the varsity and asked them to clarify why they failed to implement the new guidelines of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016.

As a result of this struggle and the directions of the court, the varsity had to deliver what it owed to these students. Now, the students have also been provided with hostel facility. Though the varsity had to do it unwillingly, still it has become the first state university in the northern India to reserve 5 percent quota in higher education to disabled students.

The division bench comprising Acting Chief Justice Sanjay Karol and Justice Ajay Mohan Goel had directed the University to enroll the petitioner and consider the similar cases of some other students for admission and hostel facility.

The bench also directed the state government to implement the provisions of Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016.

It is the responsibility of the government to ensure complete and proper implementation of the provisions of the Act. It is an obligation, coupled with duty, cast upon the government to ensure compliance of the statuary provisions,

the High Court had observed while hearing the PIL.

Ajai Shrivastava, faculty member and the additional charge of nodal officer (disability affairs) at HPU, expressed satisfaction and said that now more and more disabled students would get opportunity access higher studies.

Ajai Shrivastava also runs a non-profit organization, Umang Foundation. It was due to his guidance to these students that the varsity had to implement the enhanced disability quota. He had also warned the varsity of legal action if the quota was not reserved.

The students are thankful to Shrivastava for his efforts.

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