19:29 GMT26 February 2021
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    The 28-year-old lawyer and author is fighting hard to get recognition for orphans, helping them get educational and job opportunities.

    Lawyer and author Poulomi Pavini Shukla from the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh has been featured in the "Forbes India 30 Under 30" list for the work she has done for orphaned children.

    Poulomi Pavini Shukla has spoken to Sputnik about her vision, mission, and journey so far.

    Sputnik: Can you describe what work you've done for orphans so far?

    Poulomi Pavini Shukla: When I thought about writing a book on orphans in 2015, the main aim was to create awareness and I hoped a change would follow. However, it wasn't that simple, so we filed a Public Interest Litigation in 2018 in the top court. The court issued a notice to all states and to the government.

    Some of the states responded well. From including orphaned children in the Right to Education (RTE) to declaring them another backward class (OBC) to giving them reservations, lots of good things are happening across the country.

    Locally, we started an "Adopt an Orphanage" programme to tie up with local businesses and orphanages to provide resources, time, training, and jobs. One big success was we donated smart televisions to all 27 orphanages in our city – Lucknow which is the capital of Indian state of Uttar Pradesh - ensuring children were not left behind when education went online due to the pandemic crisis.

    Sputnik: You say your motive is to help orphans receive an education so that they can have a better future. How difficult do you think this task is? Would you want to engage with corporations or receive government help in this endeavour?

    Poulomi Pavini Shukla: My motive is to make sure orphans get equal opportunity in jobs and in education like any other child and that they do not fall into the weak category. I believe they too have an undeniable right to better their lives and we must come together to provide them the means to do so.

    This task is definitely a very difficult one, predominantly because of the numbers involved. There are 20 million orphaned children in our country and there are many lacunas that need to be filled.

    One of our goals is policy change on a large scale so that it brings a paradigm shift in the quality of life of these children. We are looking for support on this front from the government. The good thing is, so far, the problem seems to be only a lack of awareness. Once the authorities are made aware, they are more than willing to help.

    Sputnik: Do you feel that the Union Budget's allocation to this cause has doubled since your petition? What else do you expect from the government?

    Poulomi Pavini Shukla: After the top court issued a notice to the government of India, the allocation of money for children in need of care and protection was doubled in this Union Budget. This was a very heartening development. As I have said, the problem seems to be a lack of awareness, not a lack of will.

    For starters, there needs to be an official survey of orphaned children in the country. Orphaned children should also be included in every scheme and scholarship intended for weak children, including the Right to Education and should also be given reservations under the constitution. A lot needs to be done for orphaned children, more policies are needed and the list is neverending, for example a policy for the betterment of those orphaned children who turn 18 so that they are able to get opportunities for themselves in personal and professional fields.

    Sputnik: You're also an author, can you tell us something about your book? When will you write your next piece?

    Poulomi Pavini Shukla: My book covers children whose parents are not there - unknown, absent, or not at all there – and are given the title of "orphans" in a larger sense. For such children, the state has to provide nurturing because they have a right to live.

    In India, now fast becoming a superpower, the state has essentially failed to provide this nurturing to its poorest, youngest abandoned citizens – the weakest on Earth. My book presents facts and discusses what the government of India has been doing and is doing for orphans and disadvantaged categories like street children.

    As for my next book, work is currently underway and hopefully you'll hear something soon.

    Sputnik: With being a lawyer and this noble initiative, do you get any time to relax? If so, what do you do in your leisure time?

    Poulomi Pavini Shukla: Of course, I get time to relax. I love reading, painting, and travelling. Inspired by my husband, I try and learn a new skill every now and then. I just became a certified advanced scuba diver. And of course, my favourite stressbuster is to play with my dogs.

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    lawyer, Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh, Forbes, orphans
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