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From poverty-stricken villages to the G-8 summit

Last updated on: July 7, 2009 

From poverty-stricken villages to the G-8 summit

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Sheela Bhatt

Koraput in Orissa is very rich in history and culture. L'Aquila in Italy is also known for its palaces, churches and ancient monuments. Both cities will now come closer through Sanjukta Pangi, a teenaged tribal girl from Koraput, who is flying to Italy to meet with top world leaders.

Italy is hosting the G-8 summit in L'Aquila between July 8 and July 10. Since the last few years, G-8+5 countries (China, Brazil, India, Mexico and South Africa) have also been invited to participate in the deliberations on global issues. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will be attending the G-8 summit along with other heads of G-8+5 nations.

Sanjukta from Koraput, Naresh Kumar from Rae Bareli in Uttar Pradesh and Samuel Venkatesh from Tamil Nadu are the three Indian teens who will head to Rome, where over 80 children from various countries will join them for the Junior 8 or J-8 summit organised by the United Nations Children's Fund.

On July 9, some of these children will be taken to L'Aquila.

According to Angela Walker, chief of communication, Unicef, the focus of this year's J-8 will be on climate change, the financial crisis and poverty in Africa, as these issues have an impact on the lives of children and young people.

She says, "Children are the best advocate of change. They don't have the inhibitions that we adults do. Children have a lot to teach us."

Sanjukta told rediff.com, "I belong to a poor family of farmers. We are trying to understand the impact of global warming, soil pollution and the issue of sanitation."

"I can climb hills because I live on the peak of the hill. But over there we need more facilities like schools. There are so many children who are not going to schools. We are tribals, so how to make the community literate is a major issue for us. I will speak on hunger, poverty and education," she adds shyly.


Image: Sanjukta Pangi with Samuel Venkatesh

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'I will request PM to ensure that government servants are polite'

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Samuel, a slim boy dressed in flashy jeans and a colourful T-shirt, is no docile village lad.

"I am going abroad to request Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to ensure that government servants are polite to poor people," he says.

Samuel, who hails from interior Tamil Nadu, knows only Tamil but is talking with the help of the interpreter provided by Unicef. He adds that when he comes face to face with Dr Singh in Italy, he will talk to him on a lot of issues, including the impact of climate change.


Image: Samuel Venkatesh

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Confident Naresh makes a mark

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Naresh Kumar, who is also flying to Italy, is an unusually bright child who was selected by Unicef because of his self-confidence. His poor family has the gift of music, but little else.

Naresh is the first child to study up to class 10 from his village Puregosain in Uttar Pradesh. Many times, his landless family is unable to earn enough to manage two square meals a day. But Naresh is still inspired enough to study.

He participated in a mock parliament arranged in the Uttar Pradesh assembly by Unicef and shone in the proceedings. The Fund then selected him to travel to Italy to meet Dr Singh and other dignitaries, to discuss the development problems of his area, which is represented in the Lok Sabha by none other than Congress president Sonia Gandhi.

His mentor Rajesh Kumar of Lokmitra says, "Naresh is burdened by the challenges of life. He will share his understanding of developmental issues in Italy."


Image: Naresh Kumar

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