The Ministry of Human Resource Development on Thursday constituted a task force to look into the circumstances of reported suicides at Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalayas.

The residential schools are run by the Navodaya Vidyalaya Samiti, which is an autonomous organisation under the Department of School Education and Literacy of the ministry. A report in The Indian Express on December 24 said 49 students at Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalayas committed suicide between 2013 and 2017. Of the 49, half were Dalit and Adivasi students and a majority were boys. Everyone – except seven – hanged themselves, the report said.

Taking cognisance of the matter, the ministry formed the task force that will led by psychiatrist Jitendra Nagpal. The panel will investigate the circumstances that led to the reported suicides, and suggest ways to stop the trend.

The ministry has proposed to the Department of Expenditure to hire two full-time counselors in each of the 630 Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalayas across the country.

The ministry’s action comes a day after the National Human Rights Commission asked the Centre to respond within six weeks to its notice on the matter. The commission asked the ministry whether Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalaya students have access to trained counsellors and if the schools have dedicated staff members who ensure that children are not left alone in their rooms.