Sample these few questions posed by children in a private educational institution after the RTI Club was launched and students were encouraged to question the school authorities on its functioning: “How did you spend the Rs. 50 charged for the picnic?”, “Why are students not asked when new books are added to the library?”
Surprised at the spurt in queries and the enthusiasm shown by children when they get answers, Shree Niketan Matriculation School where the club was started around six months ago promises to go a step further in the coming academic year.
“Students would be filing RTIs on five issues concerning them in and around the school,” said P. Vishnucharan, correspondent.
While consumer clubs are present in quite a number of institutions, schools are either bringing in resource persons to educate children on RTI or as a separate club activity.
Educating children on consumer rights, on corrupt practices or simply encouraging one to question a system are some of many initiatives schools, colleges and independent organisations are working at enlightening young minds, although there is a long way to go, say activists.
“About five years ago, the Union Government initiated a sum of Rs. 8,000 for school to start consumer clubs. We were instrumental in starting consumer clubs in around 17 schools, some are quite active,” says Nirmala Desikan, Trustee, Consumer Association of India.
While the club at Sri Sankara Matriculation Higher Secondary School has guest speakers enlightening them, students of Bala Vidya Mandir ensure MRP is maintained in the school canteen. Vellore Institute of Technology has started ‘Students Against Corruption' and as an initiative is launching “Passport Clinic”.
Besides workshops, skits and activities, there are other ways individuals are fighting corruption. Kris Dev, ICT and e-governance consultant, campaigns for biometric tracking through citizens awareness organisation Life-Line to Citizen (LL2C).
5th Pillar, a peoples' movement against corruption, conducts free training every Saturday educating people on how to file an RTI complaint, act upon the petition, etc. As an extension of its training programme, this summer 5th Pillar is inviting students to intern with them. Transparency International (Tamil Nadu Chapter) is also doing its part.
“We still have a long way to go to spread awareness of our young population. To start with, children should be sensitised to the evils of corruption and educated that there is no age limit to file an RTI,” says Vijay Anand, co-founder and president, 5th Pillar.