“Let’s do something about it!” There’s no waiting around for someone else to fix things for these guys, they’re taking matters in their own hands — from skiing to raise money for the leprosy-afflicted to rewriting an unbiased history of India and Pakistan; recycling tyres and pushing solar energy to solutions for the hearing impaired and making earthquake relief count. Motherland picks out a bunch of promising superheroes from across the country, determined to light up the world we live in.
Pearl Majithia is a one-woman army, working towards improving the conditions of people living below the poverty line through her Mumbai-based NGO, Santosh. There’s just one unusual thing: she actually trusts government procedures, believing it essential to go through official channels and manage government documentation to really bring about a substantial change.
The idea for starting the NGO struck Pearl, 19, some three years ago, and Santosh has been officially active for the past year-and-a half. “I have always been interested in politics. I am studying law right now, and during the course I began to understand that citizens can bring about change thorough governmental processes. Initially, I had an amateur mentality about protests or marches. But now I believe government machinery works in a much better way,” says Pearl.
To deepen her own understanding of things, she also recently pursued a course with another NGO, to learn all about RTIs. “They taught us everything from filing an RTI to understanding how/why it is effective. A lot of these small things taught me that if at all there needs to be a change, one should resort to mechanisms that involve the government, rather than oppose it,” she says.
This ideology gave birth to Santosh, an organisation that aims to make paperwork easy for people below the poverty line. From Aadhar cards to voter IDs and other official documents, Pearl realised that a majority of our people are unable to procure these documents primarily because of illiteracy and unawareness. “There is also a lot of bureaucracy involved. Getting a simple document can take months. It basically requires the knowledge of all the things one would need. And that is something that, at this age, I could do on my own without monetary investment.”
She works with people living in Dharavi, as well as a few people living in the slums of Andheri West. “These procedures also get delayed because the people involved seek bribes at every step, which is something we are looking to check and eliminate.”
At Santosh, Pearl is the one running around, collecting documents, filing paperwork. “There are a lot of things I am occupied with. The problem with having a team is that I’ll have to do a lot of coordination. For instance, we would have to work in a goal-oriented manner, have regular meetings, figure out a common time to meet… Right now, I am looking to do this at my own pace without worrying about others. I mean, I’d love to expand, but not right now,” she says cheerfully.
Santosh is also keen on embarking on further projects that support the empowerment of women. “For younger girls, we want to offer free education. For example, prepare a module on sex education or something on their rights. Then we approach NGOs that are already teaching kids, and request them to maybe let me conduct a weekend seminar, because I don’t have enough money to get a place of my own and hire people yet. So I prepare these modules and visit other places instead. We also want to provide aid for women living in old-age homes. My grandmother left some money to charity, so my parents and I are thinking of utilising those funds for this. But this is all in the pipeline right now.”