4 Days Ago
Teen activist wants government to protect whistleblowers
The young information activist, Himadrish Suwan , has filed 100 RTIs so far
Himadrish filed his first RTI when he was just 15
"I hail from Jharkhand, where the state of affairs has not been stable for past 15 years. This has really urged me to keep questioning and file RTIs."
In the last three years, Delhi University student Himadrish Suwan, who is just 17 years old has filed over 100 RTI applications.
A regular columnist on activism and information in many publications, Himadrish was recently awarded for his work ‘in areas of areas of media and information activism’, by the International Association of Educators for World Peace, a body affiliated to the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), UNICEF, UNESCO and UNCED.
The teenager, who is quite an inspiration in his own right, talks to iamin about his journey of activism. Excerpts:
When and why did you first file an RTI?
I filed my first RTI in 2012, when I was 15 years old. It was about lack of Linke Hofmann Busch (LHB) coaches, he specially designed anti-collision coaches, in the passenger compartments of Ranchi Rajdhani on the New Delhi-Ranchi route. All the other Rajdhanis had the new LHB coaches.
The question I asked the Railway Ministry was who would be responsible in case there is a collision? The Former Railway Board Chairman, Vinay Mittal spoke to me and within two days the newspapers announced that new coaches for Ranchi Rajdhani will be made available for passengers.
I also filed an RTI on how many times had Former-Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh spoke to the media from 2004-2013. I got a 6-page reply mentioning that the PM spoke to the media a total of 1,300 times. They even gave me details of the one-word reply given to the media on their questions.
Did you face any kind of resistance while you filed the RTIs?
Although, I have not filed very controversial RTIs, my mother still stopped me from filing them. The government does not provide protection to the whistle-blowers. The act, though has been introduced, it has not passed in the Parliament.
In the previous year itself, the percentage of RTIs filed in 2013 has gone down from 13-20 percent to 12 percent. The government must provide protection to the whistle-blowers.
Have your RTIs created any impact on your surroundings?
I live in Paryavaran complex in Saket, it is near a road that connects to the IGNOU road. This particular area is faced with traffic snarls on daily basis.
I asked the area officials that how will a fire brigade or ambulance pass through in case of an emergency? After the filing of application, proper barricades have been put in the area and a traffic cop is always there to regulate the traffic.
Is there no age limit to file an RTI?
No. There is a 10-year-old girl in Lucknow who filed an RTI asking – “Why is Mahatma Gandhi known as the Father of the nation?”
So, anyone can file an RTI, and the responses are mostly prompt.
What inspires the activist in you?
I belong to Ranchi, Jharkhand, where the state of affairs has not been stable for past 15 years. This really urged me to keep questioning the government and file RTIs.
Apart from being a student, what else do you do in your spare time?
I write for many magazines. I have also done features for the Citizen Journalist show on CNN-IBN. I also write for Lawyer's Update (Journal of Supreme Court of India), Environment Tomorrow, The Global Times, Indian Exponent, Academia.edu and YouthKIAwaaz. I think it is much more satisfying than whiling away time on Facebook. Though, I am more active on Twitter.
What career stream do you wish to pursue in future?
After I graduate in Political Science Honours from Shaheed Bhagat Singh College, Delhi University, I want to pursue law to be a Judge.
Read More: Teen activist wants government to protect whistleblowers