Igniting Young Minds To Fight Corruption

[हिंदी] 'Tobacco Control' and 'Fight Against Corruption' were the two burning issues-in-spotlight at a youth awareness programme organized by Citizens For Healthy Lucknow campaign, at ALS Academy in Lucknow.  Noted social activist and Magsaysay Awardee, Dr Sandeep Pandey exhorted the students  to fight corruption, by making full use of the tool of Right To Information (RTI) Act, 2005. He also appealed to the students to take a pledge to neither give nor take bribes.

Addressing the students, Dr Sandeep Pandey said, "Contrary to popular misconception, it is the rich and educated middle/ upper middle class who indulge in corrupt practices, rather than the poor illiterates. Most of the big scams, which have tainted our country, would not have been possible without the connivance of highly placed officials. It seems that wealth and power makes people crave for more money. So it is important for young students like you to be sensitive to the issue of corruption and social justice in order to bring about a positive change in the lives of all Indians."

The students shared many personal instances of corruption faced by them in their daily lives. One student said that the police demanded money for writing a First Information Report (FIR) at the police station; another cited instances of the traffic police taking bribe from truck drivers, after booking them for some traffic rule violation; yet another said that those driving two wheelers without helmets, or without a license, could escape the law just by greasing the palm of the traffic police.

Dr Pandey explained that it is not only the bribe taker who is at fault, but the person who give bribes to flout the law, is equally to blame. So corruption can only be decimated if we refrain from giving as well as taking bribe. Also, these young people will grow up tomorrow and hold offices where people may come to give bribe and seek favours - that is why commitment against corruption from the youth is so necessary for a healthy society.

Dr Pandey then taught the students to draft a sample RTI application, following which each participating student wrote a real RTI application on some issue affecting his or her life He explained that the application must be addressed to the Public Information Officer (PIO) of the relevant government department, and must clearly state that the information is being sought under the Right to Information (RTI) Act, 2005. Each application has to be accompanied with a fee of Rs 10 which can either be paid in cash or sent through a postal order. RTI applicants should also mention the number of postal order/ Rs 10 currency note in their application. The application can be sent to the concerned office by registered post or delivered by hand.

Following which each participating student wrote a real RTI application on some issue affecting his or her life.

Rahul Dwivedi, Coordinator, Citizens for Healthy Lucknow campaign, emphasized upon a smokeless and tobacco free life He said, "Do Not be duped by enticing advertisements of tobacco products as tobacco is a merciless killer! Most of the tobacco addiction begins below the age of 18 years, and once a person gets hooked to any tobacco product, it becomes very difficult to quit." He warned about the deadly effect of gutkha and other forms of chewing tobacco which are sold in tasty flavours, and are targeted at the gullible, and both educated and uneducated people succumb to its charm. As these gutkha/pan masala pouches are very cheap and aggressively advertised to be harmless, they are very popular with the youngsters. But the reality is that they are as bad as cigarettes, and are the biggest risk factor for the very high incidence of oral cancer in our country.

The students were urged to write RTI Applications on the issue of proper enforcement of tobacco control and public health laws. Cigarette and Other Tobacco Products Act (COTPA) 2003, is one of the most comprehensive tobacco control laws in the world, but unfortunately its compliance in India is far from satisfactory.

The youngsters would do well to make use of the existing tool of RTI Act in order to demand improved health and sanitation facilities, and a corrupt free society, rather than remain mute spectators to the moral rot which has set in our lives.

It is hoped that the student awareness programmes organized under the aegis of Citizens for Healthy Lucknow campaign, will bring about a positive change in the attitude of our youth and they will stand up against corrupt practices, and work towards a more equitable society.

Shobha Shukla - CNS

(The author is the Editor of Citizen News Service (CNS). She is a J2J Fellow of National Press Foundation (NPF) USA. She has worked earlier with State Planning Institute, UP. Email: shobha@citizen-news.org, website: http://www.citizen-news.org

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Citizen News Service (CNS), India/Thailand
Elites TV News, California, USA
The States Times, Jammu & Kashmir
CNS Tobacco Control Initiative, India