<table border="0" cellpadding="0" cellspacing="0" width="467"><tbody><tr valign="top"><td colspan="3">Twelve-year-old pens 150 RTI applications for father’s sake </td></tr> <tr valign="top"><td colspan="3" height="10">
</td></tr> <tr valign="top"><td colspan="3"> Dhangar boy wants illiterate parent to get gardener’s job ‘denied’ by the Pune Municipal Corporation </td></tr> <tr valign="top"><td colspan="3" height="10">
</td></tr><tr valign="top"><td colspan="3">Nadeem Inamdar</td></tr> <tr valign="top"><td colspan="3" height="10">
</td></tr><tr valign="top"> <td colspan="3"> Pune, June 17: FOR the past two years, 12-year-old Kumar Laxman Kolekar, has been writing an application to the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) almost every week, seeking information under the Right to Information (RTI) Act 2005. Kolekar is doing it for his illiterate father, who was denied a job by the civic body’s garden department which claims his application did not fit with the rules.

The Kolekars are Dhangars, a nomadic tribe, living at Jambhulwadi Road in Dutt Nagar on the fringes of Katraj. The father puts his thoughts together and dictates the matter, which Kumar, a student of Chakradhar Vidya Mandir in Dutt Nagar, writes in Marathi and reads it back for corrections.

Together, the father-son duo have filed as many as 150 applications till date and now have procured hundreds of documents from the PMC’s garden department. Kumar also reads the replies from PMC’s Public Information Officer (PIO ) to their RTI queries, before filing the appeals.

Kolekar, from Sangola taluka of Solapur district, was working as a seasonal labourer at the PMC’s garden in Swargate and in the social forestry department. In 2002, his application for the post of a gardener was rejected by the PMC on the grounds that he did not fit with their rules. Instead, the PMC hired ten other gardeners who, Laxman says, were complete outsiders. His contention is that he had the required experience and had worked in the PMC and the social forestry departments and should have been given the job.

However, PMC’s garden superintendent Yashwant Khaire said Kolekar’s claim held no water. “Laxman can approach the court for relief. The social forestry department did not forward his name to the PMC and hence he was not taken into service,’’ he said.

But Kolekar decided to take on the PMC. “I opposed their move through dharnas and fasting. But the real fight began when RTI Act came into existence,” he said, adding, “I asked my son to start reading the RTI Act for me and instructed him to write applications.”

Soon, Kumar perfected the act of drafting applications. “I apply my mind and then dictate the information sought. I am proud of my son,’’ said Laxman. As for Kumar, writing RTI applications is his way of helping his father get the job. “I want Baba to get the job at the earliest so that he can look after the family well,’’ he said. Kumar has set his eyes on becoming a police officer.

For Laxman, the entire effort is about exercising his right to know despite being illiterate. “I never thought I would possess PMC’s confidential documents of appointments, circulars and orders. The RTI has brought about transparency and accountability and is a tool for the poorer sections to assert themselves.” ’

Twelve-year-old pens 150 RTI applications for father’s sake