13-yr-old fasts to end 'humiliation' at school

Pratik Wankhede (13) is tired of continuously standing outside his classroom at a Marathi-medium municipal school in Dahisar. Reason, his parents are unable to pay the school fees.

As a mark of protest, he along with his father had joined Anna Hazare in his fast against corruption.

An aspiring engineer, who wishes to serve his country by joining the armed forces, Pratik hopes that even his fast gets noticed.

'It's embarrassing'
Questioning the implementation and the efficacy of the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009, Pratik stated, "I want to put an end to the humiliation I face every time my family fails to pay school fees. It is embarrassing when you are made to stand outside the classroom while others are being taught. Hence, even I'm fasting." Earlier, his father had observed a 13-day fast in August, alongside Anna's.

Cash crunch
Pratik's mother is an anganwadi worker and earns a paltry income of just over Rs 2,500 a month. His father, a truck driver by profession, is currently unemployed.

With Wankhede's almost living hand to mouth, it becomes an agonising task for Pratik's parents to pay his annual school fees that is over Rs 3,000 on a regular basis.

'Why so?'
Ramesh Wankhede, Pratik's father, said, "Despite the government introducing the Right to Education Act, the school is planning to hike the fees. This will further aggravate our woes and make it unaffordable for us to pay Pratik's fee. The management states that maintaining the school is becoming increasingly difficult, this irrespective of the fact that it's not having difficulty in operating the English medium."

Age no bar
Ram Sobhani, an 86-yr-old Mumbaikar who was there at the MMRDA grounds to show his support for Anna's cause, said, "In my entire life, I have never given any bribe, nor have I accepted any. But today, I see several around practicing this evil." The octogenarian, who had not only witnessed India's struggle for freedom, but was an active participant, said, "This is my second fight for freedom. Annaji reminds me of Mahatma Gandhi. The only difference is that Gandhiji fought against Britishers, while Annaji is fighting against our own."

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