Hyderabad: When India was embarking on the path of economic liberalization, a bunch of technocrats with cushy jobs were dreaming of a society free from hunger, disease, and poverty.
Come 1990, `Youganter' was born. From an impactful skill development programme, to filing numerous RTIs to highlight the injustices meted out to marginalized people, Youganter embarked on a mission to uplift society and free it from all ills.
"The programme with Tech Mahindra was a skill development initiative conducted for people who were unable to pursue higher studies," said Kameshwar Rao, a retired agent from Syndicate Bank who has been with the organization since its inception.
Two training centers were set up at Koti and Kukatpally where people were taught spoken English, mathematics, and computers. The organization also ensured that people get jobs post-training.
This is just the tip of the iceberg. Youganter has people on board who work tirelessly for social justice and public awareness by holding the government accountable using the Right to Information Act as an instrument.
Two young RTI activists, Mohommad Akram Abdul and MA Kareem Ansari have been at the forefront of helping people, especially women from the Old City of Hyderabad, access basic necessities during the pandemic.
Abdul Akram has been working with Youganter since 2011. He has been filing petitions since the RTI Act 2005 came into being. He filed his first RTI when he was a 19-year-old engineering student at the HMWS. He paid Rs 32,000 and extracted 64,000 pages of information on the sewage and water systems of Hyderabad in the past 20 years.
"RTI is a great tool to gather information about various schemes of the government. The education department of Telangana dithers on sharing proper information, while city police and the GHMC are prompt," he said.
MA Kareem Ansari, who joined Youganter in 2012 filed an RTI petition during the 2014 Parliamentary election, enquiring about the status of a road inaugurated by an MLA. The road was left incomplete, and yet the Public Information Officer's records stated that the construction was complete and all the funds had been spent.
Ansari took this issue to the media, and once the story was published, he was contacted by an MPP who ensured the road was constructed within a week. Ansari believes that it is the duty of every citizen to be concerned with such issues in the country which can cause trouble on a day-to-day basis.
Youganter has been instrumental in motivating people to file RTIs by logging on to urti.in, which is a public service platform for filing petitions. Originally owned by Youganter director's friend Shashi Kumar, the site was launched in 2018 and since then 3,389 RTI applications have been filed across India. Every state has different laws for RTI application, and they have been guiding common citizens through this process.
In December 2018, they received a public request asking how much of the minority budget had been spent. When RTI was filed, they received a shocking response that 64% of the budget was unspent.
The organization has observed that Tamil Nadu is extremely prompt in responding to RTI applications and usually does so in 30 days. On the other hand, they have observed that the Aam Aadmi Party is extremely lax in these matters, with letters, often bouncing as they don't write accurate postal addresses.
Youganter believes educating and informing the public is an essential step in empowering the people. Youganter is a project through which professionals such as Kameshwar Rao, Kareem Ansari, and Abdul Akram give back to society.