India Dalit suicide
Members of the Dalit or "untouchable" community shout slogans during a protest in the northern Indian city of AmritsarMunish Sharma/Reuters file photo

Dozens of Dalit students, who are at the bottom of the caste system in India, have threatened to commit suicide in the eastern state of Bihar if the government does not step in to help them financially. The grim warning has come when the country is already gripped by the suicide of Dalit PhD scholar, Rohith Chakravarti Vemula.

At least 60 students have sent out the warning after the Bihar state government allegedly failed to pay up their stipend. The students said the administration did not act despite repeated requests from the college authorities.

"We have decided to commit suicide because our future is at stake due to [the] negligence of SC/ST [Scheduled Castes/Scheduled Tribes] welfare department of the Bihar government," one of the students told the Times of India, referring to the minorities department in the government. All the students were enrolled in Rajdhani Engineering College (REC) in 2014 through the Dalit Stipend Scheme – the government's scholarship plan.

The government has blamed the bureaucratic process for the delays in payment. "The district welfare department only examines the college records and documents of the students," said local government official Ashok Kumar Nagbansi.

The students had allegedly been kicked out of the college since they were unable to pay their dues. But the college authorities have said they have not asked any of the students to leave due to non-payment of fees.

"We have also written to the Bihar chief minister and chief secretary to release the funds. We have been providing them with studies and boarding facilities since July 2014 without receiving any funds from the Bihar government. Some of them had been to Bihar recently demanding [the] release of the funds," G S Mishra, director of REC, was quoted as saying.