My name is Shivani. I am 13 years old and I live in a room under the Jasola flyover in Delhi with my parents and four brothers, 2 older and 2 younger than me. I love acting on stage, dancing, lunch hours with my best friend Vinita and teasing my brother, Kishan about his poor grades in school. We also have a goat, whom I love very much!
I like how I live. But when I have to go to any office or when someone asks me for any paperwork or documents, I get very scared. Sometimes, even though I already have the papers needed, the people in big offices send us back. Sometimes, my father has to go to the same place many times and stand in long lines in the sun. I find that everybody, everywhere wants some paper or the other.
I have been going to school for a year now but it wasn’t always this way. I used to go to school when I was very little, but in grade 2, my teacher told me to not come back. Next day, when my mother went with me to school to ask why, they said because my address proof had a different address than that of school locality. My mother told them that we live here now but they still didn’t listen. They told her to go and get the address changed first.
My father is usually very busy – he goes out to work early in the morning and comes back only before dinner. He has to work a lot since none of us earns yet, and he has to provide for all of us, and for my grandmother too sometimes, when she visits. So he didn’t get time to get the address changed for a week. Finally, when he went to the government office, they just told him to bring another document – so he came home and told me I won’t be going to school anymore.
Last year, when I was told that I would be going to school again, without any documents required, I didn’t believe it and told them the same thing. I can’t go to school because I don’t have all the documents they want!
And I was right. When my Bucket List ma’am went to school for our admission, they asked us for so many documents. We got all those documents made, and then they asked for a bank account. When we went to the bank, they asked for other documents. And it was the same for my brothers too.
Now I know why none of us used to go to school. My father does not have the time to go for so many documents for 5 children!
Now that I have so many documents, I keep all of them very safe – in a metal box, so that rats can’t eat them. But my brothers don’t take care of their documents properly. So, I do that for them too.
Documents are so important for everybody in the world, but I don’t understand why. I asked my teachers that once, and they said that documents are to make work easy for us. But for me, it only created trouble. It was because of this system of documents that I couldn’t study for so long. It is because of these documents that my father and Ma’ams had to run around so much. So, how do they make anything easier?
Shivani is a 13-year-old who lives with her parents in a Delhi slum. She may not understand the importance of identity proof, but feels the heat of it. She couldn’t study for years, because the system was so long-winded and confusing and watched her father and the Bucket List team run from pillar to post on her behalf. Can we really blame her for wanting paperwork processes removed?
This election, Shivani wants to ensure that if identification documents are meant to help underprivileged children like herself, then that’s what they need to do, instead of denying children their right to education. Will you vote to ensure her dream of every last child in school without hassle comes true?