Students Protest at Misuse of Funds

The following is taken from a longer article written by Durgesh Kumar Atwal, a student at St Johns Christian Brothers College in Chandigarh, India

A couple of days ago, about 400 children gathered at the Central Plaza of sector 17 Chandigarh for an unusual activity. It was one that I wouldn’t normally associate with traditional schooling.  Fancy us children taking to the streets demanding our Right to Education and that to Health! Imagine our feeble voices opposing governments for the misuse of funds dedicated to the same! The immediate reason for our rally was the fact that 100 million rupees that had been initially devoted to the Education budgets are now being used to felicitate the Indian Cricket team.  We feel that such a move is unethical.

This gathering was organized by children belonging to the NINEISMINE campaign.

Nine Guitarists from various schools led the singing of popular songs – mostly from Hindi Bollywood films. Children came out in cricket attire with posters and musical instruments. A boy from a Dalit background introduced his life story and read the declaration. It read, “We are the children of India. We are not voters but we believe that the voices of children can be stronger than the votes of adults.  We ask for your support, your assurance that Our Future is India’s first priority!” This experience sure gave us a taste of the power of our collective voice.

We then performed our street play based on the NINEISMINE campaign. We represented issues that touch the lives of child labourers, rural children, Dalits, Adivasis and other children in vulnerable situations. It was great to see the number of passer-bys that supported our signature campaign.  The two-lined letters addressed to the respective Chief Ministers and our Team India members read,

“Dear Chief Minister of Punjab/ Delhi and Maharashtra/

Dear Victorious members of the Indian Cricket team

We are glad to see you felicitate/d, the Indian Cricket team. However, we would like you to re/consider the source of this award. Do not gift/accept money that could put children’s right to education at stake.”

Students from various schools supported our campaign. What was even more heartening to see was the support we got from children from slum situations and those actually below the poverty line. In fact it was children from deprived situations that actually took the lead in organizing and facilitating this entire event.

The NINEISMINE campaign is based on the Millennium Declaration and the promise to provide quality education and health for all.  Our Indian government had promised to allocate 9% of the Gross Domestic Product (G.P.D) on Education (6%) and health (3%). So our gathering was focused on the education budget because 10 million from the education budget is being given to the Indian Cricket Team for winning the ICC World Cup this year. We are glad that our Indian Cricket has won the ICC World Cup and that they are adequately awarded. But we are disturbed to hear that money dedicated to children’s education being used for this purpose.

We hope that our efforts prove successful. The press and media covered our event widely in support of our demand for 9. The Hindustam Times, the Punjab Kesari and the Dainik Bhaskar were some of the newspapers that covered the event along with appropriate photographs.

A lot of work still remains like the posting of the letters to team India the follow up on this rally. We cannot let this activity just remain as just another activity done. I believe that these activities are a good training in citizenship and democracy. I am hopeful that my hard work along with that of my friends will go a long way towards making a difference to the lives of millions of children for who accesses to education and health still remains a distant reality.

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