19 student suicides in India's Telangana state after a third of all students fail two major exams

NEW DELHI (DPA) - At least 19 students in India's Telangana state are thought to have committed suicide after failing school final examinations, officials and news reports said on Thursday (April 25).

Parents and students have been protesting across the state since the results of the Intermediate Examination for students of the two senior-most grades were announced on April 18.

Of the 974,000 students who appeared for the Intermediate Exam, a total of 328,000 failed, Telangana Chief Minister K. Chandrasekhar Rao said in a statement.

He has set up a three-member panel to probe how the exams were conducted and assessed.

"There have been a spate of suicides which on preliminary investigations are linked to the exam results," senior police official Shika Goel said.

The number of students who appeared for the exam and have committed suicide since the results were announced touched 19 on Thursday, with two more deaths, the Times of India newspaper reported.

Mr Rao held a meeting with senior officials of the education and related departments late on Wednesday and announced a free-of-cost re-evaluation of answer papers.

Mr Rao appealed to the students to be courageous and not to commit suicide.

"Though one fails in the examination, there will be plenty of opportunities," Mr Rao said.

Activists say there is intense pressure on students, especially in the southern Indian states, to secure high marks in board exams and entrance tests to engineering and medical colleges.

"Counselling should be made mandatory before the examinations and after results are declared," Mr Rajendra Prasad, chief coordinator of the Hyderabad-based non-profit MV Foundation, said.