Anger, A popular saying goes, is just one letter short of danger. But it can also be productive if directed sensibly.
That’s the belief that has spurred the five-year-old non-profit Satark Nagrik Sangathan, or Society for Citizens’ Vigilance Initiative, to plan a series of workshops on the Right to Information Act and how to make the government accountable for students who are angry about a lot of things but don’t know what to do about it.
The group will hold its first workshop this weekend at SP Jain College of Management in Mumbai. On Saturday, students will learn about the responsibilities of those in the government, their rights as enshrined in the Constitution and how to use the sunshine law.
The group’s activists will present success stories of organisations and individuals who have applied for information under the Act.
“On the second day we will actually help students file complaints about local issues. There will be a review after one month. For those who won’t receive replies will be taught how to appeal,” said Vinita Singh, a member of the non-profit group, which operates in Mumbai and Delhi.
“After the terror attack, students were screaming about getting rid of the politicians,” she continued. “They were paying taxes but were getting nothing in return. There was so much anger without any direction... Their questions ranged from what the powers of their elected representatives were to the role of bureaucracy. Young people feel alienated from the government and bureaucracy.”
The group will continue to hold workshops every month to train young citizens on their rights, how government works, who is accountable to whom and what they can do to hold the system accountable.
Shaileja Ramachandran, 21, a media studies graduate, and 25 other college students across streams have already signed up for the first workshop. But others can still register.
The magnitude of 26/11 made Ramachandran realise that it was time to hold elected representatives accountable. But apart from knowing that the RTI law was passed in 2005, she has no idea how and where to apply for information.