When Lucknow-based Poulomi Pavini Shukla was only nine years old, she became friends with some children who had been left orphaned at the time of Bhuj earthquake. This experience of being around people who did not have parents affected her so tremendously that today, she has made it her mission to bring justice and equal opportunities to all the orphaned children in India. Recently, Pavini’s efforts were recognised by Forbes Magazine, which listed the 28-year-old in their 30 Under 30 list.
“The story started in 2011 when I was nine years old. At that time, my mother was the District Magistrate in Haridwar. That year, a strong earthquake rocked Gujarat's Bhuj and many children were orphaned in the natural calamity. Some children had visited Haridwar through an NGO where my mother took me. I came in touch with these children and became friends with them,” she shared.
"Once I was in college and a girl, who was amongst the Bhuj earthquake victims, approached me with a request of studying in college. I looked for certain schemes or scholarships which could help her get admission, but to my surprise, there was no such facility. Following the incident, I visited 11 states so that I could write a book and bring up the stories of the plight of these children," Poulomi told the media.
The Wharton School alumna started her journey of waging a war against inequality and injustice towards the orphaned children by co-authoring a book in 2015 called ‘Weakest on Earth’. Her book has been used during parliamentary sessions, including being cited in the speech of former MP Raghav Lakhanpal. Former Judge of the Supreme Court, Justice VS Sirpurkar also endorsed the book.
With orphaned children numbering two crore in India and ‘Children in Need of Care and Protection’, Poulomi petitioned for judicial intervention in ensuring Right to Life, Right to Education, and Right to Equality in the apex court in 2018.
Her PIL seeks reservation for orphaned children. Additionally, it also demands an official census or survey to have an estimate of the number of the orphaned children in India.
“Governments should ensure proper schemes, scholarships, and their recognition under Right to Education so that they can live a better life," she said.
After her petition in Uttarakhand has resulted in five percent reservation to orphaned children under the Right to Education Act, which was followed by in Maharashtra, Delhi, and Goa.
(Edited by Kanishk Singh)