It is not every day that a 10-year-old catches the office of the prime minister of India off-guard and without answers. But then, Aishwarya Parashar, a class VI student, is no ordinary girl.
For she has stumped PMO officials with her Right to Information (RTI) query on when and by what orders was the title of ‘Father of the Nation’ conferred on Mahatma Gandhi.
Sitting in her house in Rajajipuram F Block, the backdrop of teddy bears and toys makes her just any other Barbie doll loving girl next door. But this is only till she starts to speak. Aishwarya, a student of the City Montessori School, chuckles throughout the conversation on how her mother has “groomed her into the RTI mode”, adding that she finds the Act so helpful that she has filed two RTIs against garbage dumps outside her school, in the past.
Asked what prompted her to file the RTI application on Gandhi and send it to the PMO, Aishwarya told how the term ‘Father of the Nation’ had always “somehow excited and interested” her after she read it in her social studies text book.
“I would keep asking my mom ‘why is Gandhi referred to as the Father of the Nation’, to which my mother mostly had no answers till one fine day she thought of the RTI route.” Her mother Urvashi Sharma is happy that the PMO has “at least taken cognizance of the letter”, even if the response has not been to their satisfaction.
Aishwarya had written to the PMO on February 13, seeking a photocopy of the government order (GO) that conferred the famous title of Father of Nation on MK Gandhi. The PMO replied that they had no such record whatsoever and directed the query to the Ministry of Home Affairs, which then referred the case to the National Archives of India (NAI).
The NAI’s Assistant Director and central Public Information Officer Jayprabha Ravindran also had no answers to the poser by the Lucknow girl, and responded with an invite to Aishwarya asking her to visit the Archives to find for herself if there were any such relevant papers.
Aishwarya’s mother is an RTI activist as well. The NAI, she added, vide a letter dated March 26, was an institution to provide documents and was not in any way a research helping body. It however offered all facilities to the girl in her quest for the Gandhi research.