10-YEAR OLD RTI ACTIVIST

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LITTLE GIRL BUT GREAT MISSION

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When some simple questions came to the mind of Aishwarya Parashar, a class sixth student of the city Montessori School, Lucknow, she did not let them languish unasked. She went seeking out answers through the ‘Right to information Act’ (RTI). Aishwarya’s inquisitiveness and willingness to pursue the source of information has yielded, till date, the establishment of a ‘Public Library’ on the site of a garbage dump and the nation being better enlightened about the ‘Father of the Nation’, Mahatma Gandhi.
All of just 10 years, Aishwarya is confident little girl, who herself answers a mobile phone and urges those wanting some written information from her to send her an SMS giving their e-mail ID and even forwards e-mail and communicates about her work on her own.
“I have so far filled three RTIs with the Prime Minister’s Office,” she says, adding that “the first one was a{a query} about who gave the order for printing Mahatma Gandhi’s image on currency notes. I was told in a reply that it was in 1993 following a meeting of the Reserve Bank of India.”
But it was her subsequent RTI asking the PMO to tell her who conferred the title of ‘Father of the Nation’ on Mahatma Gandhi, which confounded the government. From the PMO, the query went to the Ministry of Home affairs and to the National archives of India, before Aishwarya was told that “there are no specific documents on the information sought” by her.
After getting an unsatisfactory answer to her query on this issue, Aishwarya again asked the PMO who had declared Mahatma Gandhi’s birth anniversary on October 2 as also Republic Day and Independent day national holidays. To her surprise, she got a reply that such orders were never issued.
Aishwarya pens the RTI application with the help of her mother, Urvashi Sharma, who is a social worker and a RTI activist as well. Her father, Sanjay Sharma, is a doctor by profession. Aishwarya wants to become a doctor. Asked, why, she quips, “Whenever I go to a hospital, I see that the poor patients have to first shell out money in order to get treated. I will, on becoming a doctor, go to the slums at least once every week and provide free treatment to such poor people.

Gaurav Vivek Bhatnagar for ‘The Hindu’

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