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By Thomas Pallithanam
Hyderabad, Nov. 18. Launched on 12th November 2011, the Children`s Rail Yatra from Kanyakumari to New Delhi got off to a rousing start with over 300 children belonging to the Chidren`s Parliament hosting the Rallyists at the Community Hall of Madathattuvilai, a village 10 kilometers from Nagercoil. They are to reach Delhi on 19th bringing their campaign for 9% of the Central Budget for children - 6% for Education and 3% for health.
The nine students who are making the yatra at a public function at Chennai on day 2 of the yatra
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The Rallyists were led into the venue by Rally Leader, Ms.Jainab, recipient of Pride of India Award given by Dainik Bhaskar, India`s largest group of Newspapers. She was the first Muslim girl from her village Chandora, near Meerut, to have completed her high school. Though having to ride the bicycle over 6 kilometers she never failed to attend school even a day. Her life was an inspiration to many others in the village. Bhanupriya and Sarva Guna Pandiyan from Tamil Nadu,  Jibu and Sojan from Kerala, Yamini from Andhra Pradesh, Jerubbabel from Orissa, Jessica Nidhi Tigga and Priyanka Tirkey from Jharkhand, Jainab from Uthar Pradesh make up the team for the East Coast Rail Rally.

The 9 Demands of the children were endorsed by all the members of the gathering and signed cards were presented to the rallyists to be taken to Delhi for advocacy and for meet the press event at the culmination of the rally.

The Rally was flagged off by at 07.50 am from Kanyakumari by Mr.Balakrishnan, Dy.SP Kanyakumari. Their first halt was at Madurai. Led by People`s Watch and Institute of Human Rights Education the rallyists were received at Madurai Junction  12.45 by children and representatives of other civil society organizations. Kumari Jainab, Kumari Bhanupriya shared their experiences with education after Mr.Henri Tiphagne, Dr.Deva,  Mr.Bernat, Mr.Chellapandi had addressed the gathering made up of children and senior members for civil society. The media gave grave coverage to the event.  

On Day Two of the East Coast Rally, the Brass Band from Anbu Illam and Thappattu from Karunalaya were in attendance as the Chennai Express rolled into Egmore Station with the Rail Yatris. The Public meeting at Chennai with more than 400 children and members of civil society was held from 10.30 hrs to 13.00 hrs. Sri. Nalla Thampi, MLA was the chief guest. He is known for his special concern for children in his constituency. Of course he promised to do his bit to take the demand for 9% to the corridors of power.

The Yatris then met Sri. Saidai Duraisami, the Mayor of Chennai. With his winning ways he did give the impression that 9 Is Mine is indeed an appropriate demand and needs to be met if RTE is to be effectively implemented. Wada Na Todo Abhiyan, World Vision India, Don Bosco Anbu Illam, Karunalaya, Caruna, Montfort Centre for Development Services and Aide et Action were the main organizers.

On day three, 14th November, the Circar Express rolled into Rajamundry Station almost 45 minutes late. As the Yatris stepped out, the 600 children from various local schools showed how much they appreciated the 9 for the great journey they were undertaking. The public function scheduled for 10.00 am began late by an hour. You guessed it. That is the price one pays for inviting politicians who are always busy. It was also a common celebration of Children`s Day.

Most Officials who had promised to be there were present. The event was graced by District Project Officer for Women Development and Child Welfare, the Additional DMHO, the Deputy Educational Officer, the District Information Officer among others. But the politicians were really disappointing. Even those who had agreed, noted their appointments in their personal diaries and promised to be present for the function as late as the early morning hours did not turn up. That did dampen the enthusiasm a bit. The Mayor kept her word. She arrived and kept her promise to be with the Rail Yatris. In her speech she noted her appreciation for the great journey and its noble purpose. The local Corporator also kept her word.  May be it has something to do with the fact that they were both women.
The Rail Yatris left Rajamundry by Konark Express at 17.00 hrs. They are headed for Bhubaneswar, where IHRE, World Vision and National Coalition for Education are coordinating the event on the 5th day of the yatra.

As a part of the ``Nine Is Mine- Rail Yatra Campaign``, a public meeting was organized in Kolkata at Don Bosco Ashalayam, Howra at 3.00 pm. 9 children (yatris) along with adult companions reached Howra Railway station by Jansatabdhi Express at 1.00 pm on 16th Nov, 2011. The yatris were received at the railway station and brought to Don Bosco Ashalayam. The ``Nine is Mine Campaign`` meeting was organized at the Don Bosco Ashalayam campus in partnership of Don Bosco Ashalayam, World Vision India & IHRE Paschim Bangla. More than 200 participants of children, civil society members and partner organizations participated in the event.

Fr. George Myppan delivered the welcome address. Fr.Thomas Pallithanam introduced the ``Nine Is Mine Campaign`` by highlighting the background and objectives of this campaign and the future course of advocacy action when rail yatra from three directions converge at New Delhi on 20th of Nov, 2011. In his address to the participants Fr. Thomas highlighted that in every 3 minutes one child die in India and children are deprived of quality education and dropped out of school and become child labourers. The present budget allocation is 3.5 percent for Education and 1.09 percent for Health. There is a need of concerted effort at all levels to make the government accountable to commitment of allocating 9 % of the GDP for Education and Health for children. ``9`` is significant in this campaign because of 9 children (yatris), 9 days, 9 cities, 9 states, 9 demands, 9 % of GDP allocation.


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