Aakanksha and her friends fought tooth and nail to ensure that their rights to basic amenities were met. Their journey was hard, but they stood firm in their belief to bring about a change in society.
Aakanksha, a standard 7 student, is from the village of Bajghera, in the Gurgoan district of Haryana. Her school is run by Literacy India, and is open to kids of all ages, regardless of whether or not they have had a formal education in the past.
The lack of a proper drainage system as well as the lack of an efficient garbage disposal mechanism in her village meant that the approach road to her school was often overflowing with trash. This made getting to and from school a difficult exercise for Aakanksha and other students.
It was during a Citizenship Programme conducted by the organisation We, The People that Aakanksha realised that the power to bring about change was in her hands. During the programme, she learnt about the importance of the Indian Constitution, about her rights as a citizen and how she could implement them.
When Aakanksha realised that her rights gave her the power to affect change, she, along with her friends and teachers, started to think about how they could solve the problem of the poor state of their roads.
They began to gather information about the authorities and tried to determine which department of the government dealt with road maintenance.
On realising that road maintenance fell under the jurisdiction of the village Sarpanch, the group immediately approached the village head.
Unfortunately, the Sarpanch refused to take them seriously and dismissed their pleas. Dissatisfied with the Sarpanch’s response, Aakanksha and her friends approached the Municipal Corporation of Gurgoan (MCG). The MCG provided Aakanksha with a letter, clearly stating that Panchayat was the sole authority responsible for maintenance of roads in the village.
Buoyed by their support, Aakanksha approached the Sarpanch yet again, this time, armed with MCG’s letter. The Sarpanch however, refused to accept the complaint and take action.
Undaunted, Aakanksha and her friends continued their fight, this time, approaching the District Collector (DC) of Gurgoan, the head of all the Panchayats. The DC responded positively, even going so far as to support their cause by asking the Block Division Officer (BDO) to look into the matter and help the students. The BDO, after talking to the kids, informed them that Rs. 20 lakhs had been sanctioned towards repair work in the village.
Aakanksha and her friends were elated that their efforts were paying off. However, when there was no sign of improvement despite the release of funds, the group approached the Sarpanch yet again.
This time, unable to dismiss the written proof of the release of funds as well as the orders to start work immediately, the Sarpanch gave in to the students’ demands.
Within two months, repair work was on in full-swing.
While the approach road to school was the primary focus for Aakanksha and her friends, the repair work was extended to all the roads in the village. Soon, every road in the village was well-paved. Drains were also added to ensure that water accumulation did not take place.
With empowered students who not only knew their rights but had also proven themselves to be responsible citizens, the Sarpanch and other villagers too, became more responsible towards their rights and duties.
“Understanding my rights made me realise the fact that instead of complaining about the government, it is our responsibility to take action and make the government work for us. People might assume that we were not taken seriously because we are students. But the truth is that in such endeavours, no one is taken seriously. But it is our duty as citizens to stand up and raise our voices, to get things done, irrespective of age,” she says.
Many of us know about the rights and duties laid down in the constitution, but few understand their true meaning and abide by them. To hear of children like Aakanksha working hard to bring about a change in society is nothing short of inspiring.