MUMBAI: One of India’s top engineering schools has restricted Internet access in its hostels, saying addiction to surfing, gaming and blogging was affecting students’ performance, making them reclusive and even suicidal.
Authorities at the elite Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) in Mumbai said students had stopped socialising and many were late for morning classes or slept through them.
“Now, a student doesn’t even know who lives two doors away from him because he is so busy on the Internet,” said Prakash Gopalan, dean of student affairs.
“The old hostel culture of camaraderie and socialising among students is gone. This is not healthy in our opinion.”
IIT-Mumbai, with about 5,000 students, is one of seven IITs across India which are considered to be among the finest engineering schools in the world. They are also a talent pool for global technology giants.
But their exacting curriculum, tough competition and reclusive campus lifestyle have taken a toll on students.
Depression and dysfunctional lifestyles are known to be common among IIT students, and at least nine have committed suicide in the past five years. IIT-Mumbai has seen two suicides in two years and several attempts.
Students have unlimited free Internet access in their hostel rooms to help them in their studies, but many also use it to surf, chat, download movies and music, blog and for gaming.
Starting Monday, Internet access will be barred between 11 p.m. and 12.30 p.m. at IIT-Mumbai’s 13 hostels to encourage students to sleep early and to try and force them out of their ”shells”, Gopalan said.
“There has been a decline in academic performance and also participation in sporting, cultural and social activities has gone down,” he said.
But the move has not gone down well with students who say they hate their lives being regulated.
“Now they will say we need to listen to a lullaby to go to sleep,” said Rajiv, an electronics student who gave only one name.
Student anger has also spilled on to several blogs run by IIT alumni where bloggers say “the birth of the virtual world had led to the death of the real selves”, but add that they resent regulation of students’ activities.
Gopalan said authorities at the other IITs were considering a similar curb in their hostels.