This profile was prepared when Y.J. Rajendra was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 1998.
The New Idea
Y.J. Rajendra believes that despite limited education, people in slums have the resources and talent necessary to understand their problems, analyze possible solutions, and plan a course of action to advocate for their interests. He has developed a multipronged strategy to mobilize this talent, add professional communications guidance, and help slum dwellers build public grievance forums.In India, slum dwellers have typically been a mute population, living on the margins of society at the mercy of thugs, corrupt police officers, dishonest officials, and politicians. Rajendra recognizes that access to more information and a keen understanding of how to use it would give them an important tool for change. He has created an organization in the city of Bangalore that both empowers people to demand information and teaches them how they can use it to improve their lives. Armed with information, residents who have typically experienced lifetimes of exploitation can organize and use the media to publicize their problems. Rajendra reasons that far-reaching, long-term change will only happen if people who will be affected by it are the ones who demand it - this is the only constituency that truly understands which issues are most sensitive and how to solve them.