By Nitesh Jindal, Dr Ram Manohar Lohiya National Law University, Lucknow.
Possessing knowledge about something and practically experiencing the same are two entirely distinct things and both demand expertise in their individual capacity. Institutions, organizations, academics, etc. are some sources for gaining theoretical and practical knowledge. When it comes to law, stark realities of the hinterlands are entirely different from what is presented to us, through the written word. For example, we study in law that the ignorance of it is no excuse; the reality is that a major part of our population, especially the ones living in the aforementioned hinderlands are hardly aware about the rights and duties bestowed on them by law or about the responsibility of the State towards them.
Herein enter the Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs), which strive hard to make the ignorant aware about their rights, work towards uplifting the depressed masses, educate the uneducated, etc. An NGO is an institution which thrives in a realistic world. They usually aim to cover in their stride, the underprivileged and marginalized communities, which have not been able to garner our government’s attention.
The life of a law student is very hectic. While pursuing his academic studies, if he engages in an internship, it helps him in understanding the other side of the coin, i.e., make him acquainted with the actualities, which somewhere down the line assist him in achieving his objectives in life, along with understanding the workings of the society. Gaining practical knowledge and experience as to know what has been the attitude of society towards the law is an essential, which every law student must master. This can be experienced only by engaging oneself persistently with the society and the best way of achieving this is to intern with an NGO.
At this juncture, it becomes pertinent for me to delve into the importance of an NGO internship for a law student. The aim of an NGO, like a welfare State, is not profit making, but welfare of the masses which makes it a significant part of the society. I am sure most of you will agree with me, when I say this, that while interning with an NGO, you understood and felt “Self-Satisfaction”, as you get to contribute directly for the welfare of the society. Everyday, when you wake up, you wake up with the feeling that “Yes, I made some difference yesterday. Yes, I will make a difference today”. Further, it helps you know about the grass root realities, which can largely help you in choosing a career in which you wish to make a mark.
My own experience of working in an NGO in the first year of my college life, gave me ample insight into the practicalities of life. I worked as an intern at the Rural Litigation and Entitlement Kendra (RLEK), Dehradun. Its initiatives in various courts have led to the promulgation of various Acts, inclusive of, but not limited to, the Environment Protection Act, 1986; Narcotics and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1988, etc. And the story of each effort made by the organisation is outstanding and well-worth a lot of appreciation. They use various techniques, an example of which can be seen in the image here, to educate people about their rights and responsibilities. A Snakes & Ladders game, in which a snake stings, when something unacceptable is prevalent in the society, and the ladder enables you to step up when some desirable outcome or practice is rife in the society. This mind-bolstering game enables one to explore inside oneself and helps develop one’s thinking and ideas about various issues.
The RLEK is running a number of schools for imparting better education to the children of the Van Gujjar tribe. One of them is situated in Mohand and I got an opportunity to teach the students belonging to this tribe. I was confounded by the fact that the syllabus of Class II was being taught to the students of Class V. Out of curiosity, I asked about the reason behind this and was informed that their parents were not willing to send them to school as they thought that their children could instead earn some money for the family and contribute to the household; because of which, these children are usually lagging behind, when it came to the curriculum. This reality hit me hard and made me realise that this was one of the major reasons that was stopping millions of youth of our country from getting any education.
When you work with an NGO, you get to develop an understanding of what an NGO is capable of achieving through the work and effort they put in, and the positive impact they create on the society as a whole. An NGO internship, while helping a law student acquire some practical skills, also helps him develop better communication skills, as the student gets to deal with real world problems and work on them. Your approach towards society, your attitude and your behaviour take a turn, for the better, when you get to know about the other side of our country (call it Rural India, the hinterlands, or an India which we mostly tend to turn a blind eye to), which can be perceived better through NGO internships. Exploring the unexplored, reaching the unreached and knowing the unknown always remain on the agenda of an NGO and they expect to inculcate the same in an intern.
An NGO internship thus plays a pivotal role in the life of a law student, as he gets a chance to work on varied problems prevailing in our society, which he then tries to solve through his legal skills and learnings, and it ultimately results in the all-round development of the student. It not only helps evolve the student, but results in the upliftment of the under-privileged, downtrodden and marginalized sections of the society, which is sine qua non for achieving the objectives of an NGO.