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Updated: May 26, 2012 14:22 IST

10-year-old's RTI posers stump PMO, Government

Gaurav Vivek Bhatnagar
Comment (40)   ·   print   ·   T  T  
Aishwarya Parashar. Photo: Special Arrangement
Aishwarya Parashar. Photo: Special Arrangement

When some simple questions came to the mind of Aishwarya Parashar, a Class-VI student of the City Montessori School, Lucknow, she did not let them languish unasked. She went seeking out answers through the Right to Information (RTI) Act. 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 a 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 filed three RTIs with the Prime Minister's Office,'' she says, adding that “the first one was [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.

‘Surprising'

“That was really surprising because I never thought it was such a difficult question since even our history books taught us that Mahatma Gandhi was the Father of the Nation.”

The first reference to Mahatma Gandhi as Father of the Nation goes back nearly 70 years when Subhas Chandra Bose referred to Gandhi thus in a radio address from Singapore in 1944.

Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru too had, in his address to the nation upon Mahatma Gandhi's death, referred to him as Father of the Nation: “Friends and comrades, the light has gone out of our lives, and there is darkness everywhere, and I do not quite know what to tell you or how to say it. Our beloved leader, Bapu as we called him, the Father of the Nation, is no more.”

After getting an unsatisfactory answer to her query on this issue in March this year, Aishwarya on April 24 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 dated May 17 that such orders were never issued.

Favourite query

The question most dear to Aishwarya's heart was posed by her in 2009. “That was the time when Lucknow was in the grip of swine flu. There was a big garbage dump near my school, but I only got to see it one day when my mother came to pick me up as my cycle-rickshaw had not come. For the parents there was a separate entrance, and on the way back home I spotted this dump.”

With the help of her mother, Urvashi Sharma, who is a social worker and RTI activist, Aishwarya penned an application in her own handwriting. “I had marked that query on the garbage dump to the Chief Minister and thereafter the Uttar Pradesh government got the dump removed, and our school constructed a public library on the site.”

Her father, Sanjay Sharma, is a lecturer.

Ambition

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.”

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After reading this article I think altough our present is rotten,but our future will be certainly fresh and full of energy,but in India like country it seems impossible.

from:  SIDDHARTHA SINGH
Posted on: May 26, 2012 at 09:13 IST

Sivan, Your comments are fantastic, I enjoyed reading them more than the article itself. Wait till 300 million children start firing RTI queries....

from:  Shahid Khan
Posted on: May 25, 2012 at 21:56 IST

hats off to aishwarya for her intellectual questions about Mahatma Gandhi which made most of us to look back to the history regarding the details of naming him as Father of our Nation.

from:  Bhuvaneswary J
Posted on: May 25, 2012 at 21:51 IST

Good to see government gives some responses via RTI. Many a times, some questions are being refused to be answered. While we hear that India says 'Kashmir is an integral part of India', Pakistan says 'Kashmir is a disputed territory', can RTI help us find what is the real truth?

from:  Suresh
Posted on: May 25, 2012 at 20:57 IST

Congratulations to Hindu as well for publishing this news about Aishwarya, as this
will encourage other children to be inquisitive and thirsty for knowledge at this
tender age.

from:  KS Raghunathan
Posted on: May 25, 2012 at 19:25 IST

It is nothing but misuse of RTI. The child's intentions are not wrong, but medium - most certainly IS.

from:  Kumar
Posted on: May 25, 2012 at 19:04 IST

Seriously, why do we still consider Gandhi as the Father of our
Nation? Didn't he delay the time we took to gain independence by
adopting a non-violent approach. It wasn't because of him that we got
Independence, it was because of the World Wars. The wars resulted in
severe significant military and economic losses. They were so weak
after the wars that they though they could no longer control their
colonies. In addition to that, there was a growing opinion among the
British public and the greatest superpower at the time, America, to
put an end to colonialism.
Final words, Gandhi fought for Independence, but it was not because of
him that we achieved it. It was pretty much granted to us by the
British. Gandhi, in fact, delayed the time we got freedom, and that is
why he should not be considered the Father of our Nation.

from:  Sadhan
Posted on: May 25, 2012 at 18:59 IST

It is not correct to say that small children asking inconvenient questions is misuse of RTI facility. I put forth the following reasons why it is desirable:
1. It is great that a small child could ask and get answer to her questions through RTI act. This proves that you don't need to be someone special to use this facility. Such news would encourage common citizens to make use of this facility without hesitation. 2. It is well known that in most of the government departments, there is no formal mechanism to systematically store and disseminate information before RTI act. Now they are required to setup such mechanisms, which is good. In my opinion, they is no such thing as irrelevant questions. 3. Children like Aiswarya are role models to other youngsters to develop a questioning attitude and actively participate in democratic processes, which is good for our country.

from:  Murthy K V M
Posted on: May 25, 2012 at 18:47 IST

While the curiosity and initiative is appreciated, are we not diluting the raison d'etre of RTI. The third question may merit being asked, but the first two questions could have been resolved on any social media website. If such questions keep streaming into RTI office, we will soon have a new department that is another drain on taxpayers money. I suppose RTI services should be provided to only taxpayers, a nominal amount is also okay for eligibility. Though do not deny the benefit of increased awareness of RTI office through this article.

from:  Apte
Posted on: May 25, 2012 at 17:47 IST

Hats off to the little girl Aishwarya over her intellect and curiosity
at this young age. Wish her best of luck in all her efforts. If the
readers can answer for the questions she didn't get reply it will be
wonderful.

from:  S Syamsundar
Posted on: May 25, 2012 at 17:32 IST

Keep it up atleast we people geting aware abt the real facts.

from:  Anshul Ujlayan
Posted on: May 25, 2012 at 16:29 IST

I agree to T Amal - on spirit of RTI. Though, Aishwarya and alike must be enocuraged to keep up the enthu. Good for nation.

from:  Avinash Baranwal
Posted on: May 25, 2012 at 16:04 IST

When RTI activists and whistle bowlers are murdered and tortured, encouraging children and making the best use of it is essential.Aishwarya set a good example.Hats Off.

from:  Arul
Posted on: May 25, 2012 at 15:58 IST

I agree with Sivan too. The RTI was not meant as a "government's
wikipedia" and the fact that this girl's mother herself is an RTI
activist says there's nothing special in what she's doing. The mother is
there to order, and she can easily obey.

from:  Sujatha Reghunathan
Posted on: May 25, 2012 at 15:49 IST

I have to applaud Aishwarya Parashar, the 10-year old for her curiosity. What a breath of "fresh air," from an innocent kid of this great country, which is reeling under scams, corruption, and everything that is moralistically low. She has done a huge favour to several of adults - including educationists too as even they too would have stuttered to answer this. I'm humbled by this kid, and my Prayers to the Almighty would be to Bless this child Abundantly first, and then increase her 'tribe.' India needs several crores of young minds like this who will grow amidst the 'chaos,' which we have in the begining unconciously laid for them and now we are conciously ignoring them.

from:  TSK. Raman
Posted on: May 25, 2012 at 15:44 IST

There is a flicker hope for the future with such children like Aishwarya. May God bless her with energy, courage, confidence ,steely will and a long life.
Heartening to read news of this nature.

from:  R Swaminathan
Posted on: May 25, 2012 at 15:40 IST

Does this news is to tell the people Go and file an RTI application on trivial matters and keep the PMO busy searching answers from the archives ?. So this is an entertainment ?, Ridiculous and irresponsible use of people's power. This is the fate of teh nation ! and TheHindu has fallen for sensationalism marketings to make readership. Shame.

from:  Sathya
Posted on: May 25, 2012 at 15:38 IST

I agree with some devil's advocates that for these kind of infos our imp national office resources should not be wasted. Also nothing great about she seeking info thru RTI as her mother is an RTI activist (did the mother sought the info in her daughter's name?!!).. Media, media, media! pl bring some stories, even if they are very minor, about any innnovation of any form in the country... I heard, Israeli media is sensitive about the constructive news content in their media - they will highliht in the front page news 'innovation' news, not the bloodshed, killings, war etc ( you may say war is routine for them, but the media pushes back that news, and highlights constructive news)...

from:  Kannan K
Posted on: May 25, 2012 at 15:34 IST

Aishwarya is using the RTI Act in the true spirit the way it should be done. Let us all contribute like aishwarya to bring light to things which is a matter of concern to all of us.

from:  Rajat Kumbhat
Posted on: May 25, 2012 at 15:16 IST

Be what you are Aishwarya...you are lucky to have such great parents

from:  Manish
Posted on: May 25, 2012 at 15:03 IST

well filing a RTI application by Aishwarya may not be a special case..but for sure her way of looking at things is something which will be an example for everyone.at a tender age she is learning how to change things arround us.how many of us do this.i suppose we all also have educated, decent,parents and a great value system.even if she is doing it because her mother is an RTI activist i still believe this girl posseses the mettle to make a mark.and i applaud her for the courage.remember RTI activist are being tourtured,murdered also every where.

from:  vijay
Posted on: May 25, 2012 at 14:20 IST

I love the enthusiasm that Aishwarya has in her child age.
i wish she live her dream every day but also want to suggest her that if she wants to do something for our countrymen she should do it from out side the govt. body.

Wish her all the best!

from:  Sumit
Posted on: May 25, 2012 at 14:13 IST

Here, people are saying, RTI is being exploited or best used. But how many here knows the process of filing an RTI? Ever tried to know that, ever filed an RTI to get some info? It is an excellent tool, use it.

from:  Raja Pamarthi
Posted on: May 25, 2012 at 14:02 IST

Aishwarya's parents are in reality very irresponsible and what they are actually doing is exploiting the RTI act. If the kid was told to come back with more than GK questions and if these were put forward, then they might deserve the praise. But their current action is selfish and ignorant.

from:  Sharan Selvaraj
Posted on: May 25, 2012 at 13:17 IST

RTI Act is one of the most powerful tool Indians have got. But the concern is using RTI for finding answers for such quiz questions will definitely lose seriousness about RTI and also the purpose it is meant for. For the questions this girl has asked, her teachers or parents could have answered, had they done little literature survey either in internet or in library. It would have been much wise, if the officers were allowed to invest their time on most priority issues of Nation, than making them to search answer for quiz questions.

from:  Aarth
Posted on: May 25, 2012 at 12:50 IST

It's really very admirable & appreciable for such a small girl to
have so much pro-activeness & intellectual curiosity. Congrats to
her & to her parents!

from:  Sara
Posted on: May 25, 2012 at 12:24 IST

I agree with Sivan.

from:  Anonymous
Posted on: May 25, 2012 at 12:22 IST

Hats off to little Aishwarya for making even the learned informed on
basic and simple information by using RTI tool. At a tender age,
Aishwarya has the passion to reach-out people and bring changes around.
May Aishwarya inspire many young minds in India.

from:  Dr.Narayan B. Iyer
Posted on: May 25, 2012 at 10:05 IST

Its heartening to see that small children like Aishwarya are reposing faith in the system, which for most of the "elders" is beyond repair. I hope she continues to find RTI effective to get querries answered and show the path forward to people on how to deal with a system that is so mismanaged, but still vital for everyone's survival.

from:  Karthik
Posted on: May 25, 2012 at 09:52 IST

The problem with India is that by the time this girl finishes her College - she would have faced something called reality, and the cynicism would have set it. Go on, flame me, but how many of the flamers are living their childhood dream life? Sorry to break it people, but reality has a way of bursting bubbles.
Also, the article is misleading. Please note that the child's mother is an RTI activist. It is not as if someday this girl actually decided to make use of the RTI Act out of her own volition. What we are seeing here is another example of children following parent's profession - "the much hated and debated varna system" - a doctor's child is taught to think like a doctor, a politician's kid is taught to think like a politician, and a RTI activist's child is taught to use the provision. It is natural and I do not see anything special about it.

from:  Sivan
Posted on: May 25, 2012 at 09:39 IST

amazing and intellectual girl...giving the lesson to all those person out
there who think girls are burden..

from:  hemant
Posted on: May 25, 2012 at 09:36 IST

The IAS babus at PMO office it seems have forgotten the answers for these question .They knew the answers while preparing for IAS.Likewise, I doubt whether the teachers of the famous City Montessori School Lucknow know who was the founder of the school.

from:  VSBALASUBRAMANIAN
Posted on: May 25, 2012 at 09:35 IST

Great going....good....thanks for the info to Aishwarya

from:  Bharat
Posted on: May 25, 2012 at 09:06 IST

India needs more Aishwarya's to take the country forward in the right path.

from:  Vijayaraghavan
Posted on: May 25, 2012 at 09:04 IST

Never knew that the RTI could be exploited as a lifeline on one of those quiz shows!

from:  Shinji Kagawa
Posted on: May 25, 2012 at 08:49 IST

Let me hope that the country gets more Aishwaryas who nurse intuitions
to know on the history, tradition and heritage of our motherland and
mould themselves to become somebody useful to one and all, especially
with a passion to serve the marginalized communities.I convey my best
wishesto Aishwarya Parashar.

from:  Madan Menon Thottasseri.Chennai
Posted on: May 25, 2012 at 07:41 IST

good,best of luck my dear,i remember you one thing that if u wants to
become a doctor for earning more money in future you will not suffer
in future but, if you wants to become a doctor for provide free
treatment to such poor people you will suffer in future because we
have an good example like Dr.binayak sen .if you ready to face these
problem go ahead ...our prayers with you ...best of luck...

from:  abul hassan.t
Posted on: May 25, 2012 at 07:24 IST

Hats off to this girl child !!! I am also really touched by her ambition to serve the poor people of this country. Parents should also be given due credit for her upbringing.

from:  Sohil Shah
Posted on: May 25, 2012 at 06:17 IST

Can important offices be left with their time to do what they must do
instead of answering 'know your country' curiosities of 10-year-olds?
That's not why RTI was legislated, I would guess.

from:  T Amal
Posted on: May 25, 2012 at 05:23 IST

Its astonishing to know how much she's aware of her surroundings and how things work.It would be great if Aishwarya Parashar could prefer Civil Service rather than a Doctor :)

from:  Vinoth Kumar M
Posted on: May 25, 2012 at 04:02 IST
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