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Taking Baby Steps In Demanding Governance Accountability
By Thomas Pallithanam
Hyderabad, Feb. 5. RTI 4 RTE (Right To Information for Right To Education) the 6th Phase of Nine Is Mine Campaign was flagged of by Smt.Lam Thantiya Kumari, the State Information Commissioner of Andhra Pradesh at 17.00 hrs, 4th February 2014 from the premises of Ekalavya Training Centre, People's Action For Rural Awakening, Ravulapalem. 350 child human rights defenders, who are members of school based human rights clubs, along with human rights activists from civil society and a host of government senior officials participated in this unique programme.
Children busy writing the RTI queries, Children presenting the queries under RTI to Smt.Lam Thantiya Kumari state Information Commissioner, Flagging of RTI 4 RTE by , the State Information Commissioner,
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People's Action For Rural Awakening is the Social Action Initiative of Don Bosco Mission Ravulapalem. As part of  Celebrating One Hundred Seasons (25 years) of Walking With the Dalit Bahujans PARA had lined up several events during the past year and this year. The flagging off the RTI 4 RTE was the 4th event in the series. PARA has been spearheading the Nine Is Mine Campaign for the last 7 years along with other civil society organisations.

'Nine Is Mine' is a nation-wide initiative through which children have been at the forefront to demand that the Government meets it promise to invest 9% of India's GDP in public expenditure on Health (3%) & Education (6%), as stated in the National Common Minimum Program.
Phase One - Signature Campaign

In the budget year 2007 over 200,000 children across 12 states came together through the 'Nine Is Mine' Signature Campaign to petition the Prime Minister to fulfill this promise, following which a delegation of children met Dr. Manmohan Singh on 1 February 2007.

Phase Two - Public Perception Survey
Signature Campaign was followed a Survey conducted by children are market places, bus stations, railway stations ascertaining from the general public ''How well their  Primary Health Centres and Primary Schools were run.

Third Phase - Score Card Generation
10,000 children across 16 states of the Union came collaborated a massive effort to generate a Score Card on the quality of entitlements under Sarva Siksha Abhiyan for Schools  and ICDS for Anganwadis. 3677 schools and 3820 anganwadis were assessed and the result was released from Teen Murti Bhavan, New Delhi at a large media conference and the same presented to the Shrimati Krishna Tirath, the minister of states for Women Development and Child Welfare and also to the then NCPCR chairperson, Ms.Shanta Sinha and other dignitaries.

Fourth Phase - Rail Yatra
This was followed by a Rail Yatra along the East and West Coast of India starting from Kanyakumari and culminating in New Delhi. A third rally reached New Delhi from Shillong. 9 children along with adult guides traveled for 9 days, through 9 states conducting public meeting in 9 cities to reach New Delhi and to do advocacy with the government regarding the need to keep their promise of allocating 9% of the GDP for Education and Health.

Fifth Phase - Lobby at the UN
The campaign shifted gears and reached portals to the UN in New York in last week of September 2013 to high light the need for all nations to make commitment to their child citizens with regard to health and education.

This Sixth Phase - RTI 4 RTE
RTI 4 RTE ( Right To Information For Right To Education) is an effort by children to hold their governments to accountability through the use of RTI to the educational rights now made a fundamental right through the 82 amendment of the constitution and by enacting the Right To Education Act 2009.

In this  campaign children are eliciting response from appropriate public information officers regarding entitlements assured under the Right To Education Act. RTI applications are being filed to ascertain the status of entitlements under RTE.

RTIs queries are being filed by children in the following pattern:
1.Panchayat Level: 9 queries will be filed by 9 children (one query each) at panchayat level with the PIO - Public Information Officer - (Village Secretary or appropriate officer)

2.Block Level: 3 queries will be filed in a bunch by one student or guide with the PIO at the  Block Educational Office level.
3.District Level: 3 queries will be filed in a bunch by one student or guide with the PIO at the District Educational Office.
4.State Level:3 queries will be filed in a bunch by one student or guide with the PIO at the State Directorate of Education Office.

The campaign aims at covering 1000 panchayat and PESA jurisdiction  across India. The consolidated result will be released in New Delhi under the banner of 9 Is Mine Campaign.

Andhra Pradesh Chapter of the campaign was flagged off at 17.00 hrs on 4th February 2014 by Smt.Tantia Kumari, State Information Commissioner  at a public function organized by People's Action For Rural Awakening, Ravulapalem, Member, National Core Committee, Nine Is Mine Campaign. The presence of a host district government officials (Revenue, Police, Education, Social Welfare) civil society activists, media at the flagging off event added weight to the effort. 350 child human rights defenders are members of school based human rights clubs being promoted with the concurrence of the educational department of the state with the support of Don Bosco Mondo.  

We believe that these efforts by children will continue to highlight the need to prioritize public expenditure for health and education in the policy dialogue as well as the public debate. Both sectors saw a substantial increase in the last Union Budget - though not enough to increase the allocation in % GDP, and the Prime Minister has continuously mentioned investments in Health & Education as a national priority in his speeches and writings.

More than anything else these campaigns provide the children with an opportunity to exercise their citizenship. They also give them memories that will last a life time of the baby steps that they have taken demanding governance accountability from authorities, memories that they will share with their grand children!
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