Hosur |14-year-old works with Municipality Commissioner on 2-month deadline to fix open-drainage system in her locality.
What if the government worked with you, not for you? Amizhdhiniy R.S from Hosur is challenging deeply rooted biases as she builds her civic muscle.
We want to put a disclaimer out there: we are not here to solve all of the nation’s civic problems for it. Neither are our Solve Ninjas going to clean-sweep eliminate every single problem each of your localities has.
What we can promise is that the newest, youngest generation of Indians are not going to be like the rest of us. They will not flippantly grow up ignoring problems around them, they will not grow up to be entitled expecting problems to solve themselves or be solved for them. They will be active, hawk-eyed citizens ready to prance upon problems they find surrounding them every day and working diligently to solve them however they can. They will be empathetic, compassionate citizens who will work together to find solutions, instead of playing the blame game and waiting around to see if someone else will solve the problem for them.
They will be the democratic citizens Gandhiji dreamt of, that he fought to get freedom for. This is what our movement is about. And this is what Amizhdhiniy’s story amongst thousands of others illustrates.
Her first day at Reap Benefit, Amizhdhiniy only grew more wide-eyed. Here she was, suddenly being able to unleash her every frustration with her neighborhood and somehow she was going to be able to do something about it. She was upset with a lot of things; which when she mulled over with her mentor boiled down to an open-drainage right in front of her house. People kept throwing garbage into this and when the rains came, the rotting, singeing and frothing garbage would overflow bubbling onto the streets and invite nasty smells, disease-carrying mosquitoes and very unpleasant days and evenings to Amizhdhiniy’s neighborhood.
She did not like this and very quickly decided that she would somehow ‘convince’ people to not throw garbage in there anymore. Her mentor prodded her, “Would that make the smells go away, the drain itself go away? Why is it there? Why is it open?”
After having discovered something that bothered her, Amizhdhiniy was onto step two of our four-step process in activating a young citizen’s civic muscle. She began diligently investigating the problem. She went around asking over fifty households in her community why the drainage existed, whether they had ever tried doing something about this and why this problem wasn’t going away. What she gathered was that many other people found this a problem, and a few of them had complained about it a couple of years ago unofficially and then given up, “because nothing actual is going to come of trying, anyway.”
Further determined, Amizhdhiniy picked this up with more resolve and began solving and sharing, parts three and four of the process. She decided that the open drainage needed to be sorted and connected to the larger city’s drainage system and that the government had to do it. If they hadn’t already, ‘why?’ — and if they hadn’t listened to lone people making unofficial complaints, she would go many steps further. She gathered all the data she had already collected and put it into a campaign and petition, for which she went house-by-house gathering close to a hundred signatures. Then she called the Municipality Commissioner’s office and laid everything she had done, requesting a meeting with him to discuss this. She wasn’t demanding anything, she wasn’t being entitled and merely complaining — she had done what she needed to do and she was making a proposal of what she wanted. The Commissioner’s office arranged a meeting between her and him for the very next morning. That evening, she called her mentor at Reap Benefit and role-played her conversation with the Commissioner. She was excited, nervous and rapidly persuasive when she began speaking about the work she had done.
Amizhdhiniy was prepared the next morning; with data, anecdotal stories to tell and a proposed solution. She walked in with courage, but also with respect. She knew what she wanted, but she wasn’t there to demand it, she was there to quietly and collaboratively work a solution out. The Commissioner and Amizhdhiniy exchanged information, shared what they knew and decided on an action plan — the Commissioner was to visit her locality the next morning. He gave her his mobile number, so she could contact him directly if she needed to do so.
He paid her locality an inspection visit the next morning, and upon further investigation and ideating, promised Amizhdhiniy that he would have his engineers come in shortly to begin fixing the issue. They decided on a deadline of two months, which she very excitedly told her mentor at Reap Benefit, right before rushing off to Hindi tuitions.
How many beliefs, or should we say biases, do we hold immutably dear when we regard the places we live in or the governments we choose? That nothing can be done, that we ‘deserve’ civic luxuries and don’t have to work for them, that governments are inherently and always useless.
In Amizhdhiniy, activating the civic muscle meant supporting her natural curiosity and persistence blossoming into beliefs and actions that toppled redundant, societal ones on their heads — while still being the young girl who has to run to tuitions and a citizen that brings meaningful impact in her community’s everyday lives, by solving small and denting big.