Monday, May 11, 2009

My first day at the NGO...

As a first timer and a volunteer, hoping to understand what Right to Information Act is all about, I found myself at the Janpath office where I thought I could see at close heels the manner in which the Act functions. My first task, as told by Ms. Panki and others was to attend an open session held every Saturday when people from all over come to the centre and seek help in filing their RTI application and seeking counsel on how to tackle the various problems they have faced with the establishment.
Many of us ‘knew’ or pretend to know the difficulties the common man faces and it is thought of as fashionable in our circles to constantly empathize and associate with the plight of the millions who are constantly waging war against an establishment that is not only exploitative but also unwilling to accommodate the deprived and the poor. Like all such self proclaimed concerned citizens of the country, I entered the centre but I am sure to leave a changed person.
In those two hours there, I did see at close quarters the completely different world in which many people live and more importantly the importance of RTI as a weapon not to cure but perhaps to serve as an affective means to seek information and change the system as well. I was able to problems ranging from land related problems to boat tragedies to even marital and police irregularities. While the scope of every application was completely different, the recurring theme of how the system has rotted and needed change and accountability ran constant. The police in India no doubt needs urgent reforms and it is sad to see that ‘justice’ is enforced in India via forced confessions and harsh beating if the police line is not toed. It was also unfortunate too see how the common people are blissfully unaware of their rights and privileges. I was shocked to see how people were cheated of their lands in front of their own eyes and that too with their own consent. Moreover, they did know the vitality of a legal document; many of the papers contained no signature which could enable them to carry on their fight for justice. It was a pity to see these people come here and fight against a system that has been the cause of their ruin.
This is exactly where I see the role of the Right Information Act and the role of bodies such as Janpath in serving as a platform to help these people secure their basic rights and in their quest for a better life. Yet, I also believe that this is only half of battle that is won. One can provide them with all the logistical support they need but the question of providing them with easy legal aid cannot be ignored. From what I am told, the state run centre for legal aid is in a total mess and little is expected from it. It is beyond doubt that assisting their appeal and providing legal aid are complementary and there shall be a time when such a thing shall indeed become a reality.
Meanwhile, it is indeed necessary for the youth to wake up from the ‘elitism’ and be accustomed to the harsh realities that plague the world around us. The problems of the people are many and one Janpath cannot solve all the problems of the people. The fact is that we have for long remained oblivious to the social disparities and social injustice that has surrounded us and till we continue this state of oblivion, it is impossible to say that India is a superpower to reckon with. When we celebrate the eleven years of the Pokhran nuclear test today, let us not forget what we forgot while making the bomb; the progress of millions and this is one such bomb which if explodes shall destroy not a part but the entire nation.

No comments: