If something is meant to happen- it will somehow happen, however hard you try to avert it. What the last few days has turned out like, is testimony to the above prophecy. A month back I called up the programme co-coordinator , who also happened to be a good friend of mine at this organization called the Centre for Indian Knowledge Systems (CIKS) and told him that these vacations, I wanted to spend some time in the rural areas and I did not want to do any law related work. He gave me a few options as to which NGOs or groups I could tag along with and the conversation ended there. Then a week later he sent me what was a very professionally done “program schedule” and said- there was no need to visit any other NGO when the CIKS option existed and said that I could travel to various of their field offices and visit farms, temples in the area but also do a few legal literacy programmes for some farmer groups. To quote from the Godfather, it was an offer I could not refuse and hence…
As this is not the forum to talk about the miracle that is organic farming, I will leave that to another place. For the keen ones- http://www.ciks.org/ gives all the information you need about the work this organization does.
So yesterday evening we set out to Madhur Village near Melmaruvathur on two motor bikes- Gow and me the happy pillion riders. Oh..I forgot to mention Gow the ever enthusiastic LSC PR person :) We reached the village by 7:50 and the people had already gathered. The first 45 minutes were spent in discussing farming and we were curious on lookers and then the usual embarrassing introductions followed- “Students from India’s No.1 law college..etc.etc”. We weren’t really prepared and since there was not much time, we decided to make it a question answer session after given them a quick session on RTI.
The questions which followed covered a wide spectrum of issues. Validity of a will, insurance claims and hire-purchase agreements, indignant people who couldn’t understand why women were coparceners under the new amendment, whether someone could get a patta under a different name when the title deed was under a different name! The important realization of the day was the potential power of RTI. Many of the queries centered around non-sanction of loans, arbitrary reasons given by the officials of the same, demand of money in excess of what is officially prescribed and so on. And for someone who has been involved in such things for a few years now, the two heartening lessons were that the cynicism regarding institutions dispensing justice had not yet set in very deep into the psyche and the villagers seemed inclined to put these laws into use and derive results. The fact that they were organized groups seemed to give them more resolve and strength.
We began the journey back on the bikes with several jumbled thoughts. Had we helped in any way? Is the “law” as we understand it, something alien to them and does it work contrary to the traditional dispute resolution mechanisms that exist within their communities? An hour was too short a time to find answers to these deeper questions in life. Little did I realize that the very next day had answers for many of these.