HARIDWAR: "Uncle ji aap usko (The elephant) ko bandh doge toh woh khelne kaise jaega? (How will the elephant be able to go to play if you will tie him up?)," that is what 3-year-old Riddhima Pandey had asked officers of Corbett Tiger Reserve in 2008.
She is just 11-year-old but old enough to realize threats to the planet. Riddhima had recently joined a group of 15 children including Greta Thunberg to file a landmark complaint at the UN against five countries - Argentina, Brazil, France, Germany, and Turkey- citing rights violations by not acting on climate issues. Thunberg, a 16-year-old Swedish environmental activist had made headlines for her fiery speech at UN Climate Action Summit in New York on Monday, September 24,
Riddhima's father, Dinesh Pandey, who works with Wildlife Trust of India recalls an anecdote when she was just 3-year-old.
"We were in Corbett Tiger Reserve and discussion were on with officials about a chained elephant brought for medical treatment in one of the shelters. She overheard the discussion and came to us. Interrupting the talks she asked a question about why the elephant is being tied up and how the animal will be able to function," recalls Dinesh Pandey, father of the 11-year old now.
Cultivating 'Kathak' dance form as her habit which is a hobby too, the child activist returned from France on Thursday where she was to participate in a summit to tackle global warming.
After landing at Delhi international airport, the fan of 'The Lion King' and of course 'Simba' said, "Environment is important to all of us. I met children from other countries who want to save the planet. The planet is our home. All the children are united for this and our leaders should also unite from across the world."
"I want a better future. I want to save my future. I want to save our future. I want to save the future of all the children and all people of future generations," says her bio on the website titled 'Children Vs Climate Change'.
She was moved by the disaster in Kedarnath. Later, a petition was filed by her in National Green Tribunal.
Vinita Pandey, the mother of Riddhima who works as a beat officer in charge in Uttarakhand forest department told that she had been highly sensitive towards her surroundings, especially for plants, animals and environment.
After 2013 tragedy when news of devastation and loss of lives were making headlines, Ridhima held her father responsible and raised bold questions before him. "You work for the environment? Then why you did nothing? How did people die?" recalls the father, which left him speechless.
"I was not able to look into eye of my child. I never had felt so small and incapable. Not able to sleep properly for many a nights, I decided to do something with my daughter," said Dinesh Pandey.
Afterwards, a petition was filed in the NGT in which she requested the government of India to have a 'Carbon Budget' to cut down on carbon emissions contributing to global warming.
She was quoted saying in 2017 to a foreign publication that the government of India has failed in controlling the carbon emissions which is why she had to move to the tribunal.
However, the NGT disposed off the petition stating that there are already laws to work the issues raised in the petition. Then in class 4 in the year 2016, Ridhima refused to drop the issue.
Famous in her school in Haridwar as a 'Shining Star', teachers describe how she comes up with her studies, activism and shines in co-curricular activities as well as academics.
Leena Wadhwa, a teacher and co-ordinator of students wing in Ridhima's school said, "She is a gem. We were certain from the way she balances everything that she is going to achieve something. We are all proud and happy for her."
A big admirer of Uttarakhand cadre IAS officer Deepak Rawat and IPS officer Sweety Agarwal, Ridhima wants to make a difference.