Internship Experience @ Legal and Environmental Action Forum [LEAF] NGO, Jagdalpur: Work on Tribal Rights

Name of the Intern

Pallavi Dehari, National Academy of Legal Studies and Research, University of Law – Hyderabad.

Duration of the Internship

November 8th to December 5th 2015.

Name of the Organization (Postal Address)

Legal and Environmental Action Forum, Collectorate Road, Jagdalpur, Bastar District, Chhattisgarh, India.

Office Culture and Environment

It is a Non-Governmental Organization run by Mr. Arjun Nag and his colleague Mr. Madhu Ramnath who is involved in scientific research. They have their chambers and the NGO’s office near the District Court.

It has a pretty modest setup with access to Internet and good books.

They have a small library of their own. But what is more interesting about it is, they have various books on tribal anthropology and environment studies.

Though you can also find necessary and relevant legal references.

Just to add, one can also get to read wonderful books, authored by Mr.Arjun Nag and Mr.Madhu Ramnath-The Village Justice, The Stories of Exploitation of the Tribals, to name a few. Also, if lucky enough, you may enjoy serendipity of finding some classic novels.

His assistants are always keen to help and are very responsive, so you can always approach them even with your silly questions. You may go preferably in formals (court uniform) because most of the day’s work is in the court.

About ‘Nag-Ji’

He is deemed to be the first tribal lawyer in Central India with an experience of more than 23 years in the legal domain as well as in working with various departments in the Central Government.

He currently supervises six lawyers under him. He and his team has worked extensively in the tribal areas to spread legal awareness and building para-legal capacities among the tribal youth.

His specialization being tribal and customary rights, issues related to forests and encroachment, he has largely been serving the adivasis.

He provides free legal aid to the tribals to reduce the financial and mental stress they usually face due to their exploitation.

His knowledge over other fields, both legal and non-legal is also commendable. He is also known for his tremendous negotiation skills among his colleagues.

He is also involved in various other movements, tribal and environmental activities. You can read more about him in detail HERE.

For knowing about the works his team is involved in, click HERE.

Choosing the Internship-Interests and Motives

The unsaid reason being that I wanted to get rid of my home sickness and monotony after a long hectic semester.

But more than anything what drove me more to do an Internship at my hometown, was my curiosity to know about the legal functioning at my place.

After all, I have been living there for more than a decade. Also I have always had a deep interest for tribal rights and alternative customary practices for justice, and no other place than Bastar would have been a better place to study, beyond everything, Bastar has a rich tribal culture which is somewhat still intact.

To add up, I believe it’s necessary to get acquainted with the environment of the court, for our law if is a ball, courts are its playground.

So I am not as experienced as my seniors to advice anyone, still, if you actually take up an internship, which not only caters to your academic requirements but also to your interest you will definitely love the work, however boring or difficulty it may be.

Therefore, you will perform better at work and learn more. So don’t be dreary and add your interests and motives to your internship too.

How to apply?

They don’t release any public notice for internships.

So you need not look for them here and there. Anyone can go, meet Mr. Arjun Nag at his chambers after court hours, or you may just call him.

You shall send him your necessary documents – Recommendation Letter, Curriculum Vitae, Cover-Letter. Well all these are mere formalities.

Everyone is welcomed with open arms.

How did I find out this Internship Opportunity?

Well, this is a story. I remember, when I was a kid, I always used to look at the board of this organization, on the top of a building, which I passed by everyday while going to school.

The logo of the organization and of course its name used to attract me very much “Legal Environment”.

Although I didn’t know what it was. Finally after so many years when I was looking for an internship, I landed up in the same place. Revival of childhood memories, Serendipity!

Accommodation and Transportation

Since I was a localite, I didn’t have to worry about the accommodation but you can definitely find several good hostels and paying guest houses all over the town. I am pretty sure one can get it arranged easily and cheaply.

Jagdalpur is a small town, so you will never face any difficulty going to places. You can get an auto or a city bus. Or if you are fond of walking and are not lazy, you can travel on foot.

But still, if you come over to Jagdalpur and need any help, you can reach out to me at [email protected]

Also, there are a lot of eateries near the court, so whenever you are empty from both brain and tummy, you can stroll around grab whatever you would love to eat. Well, I just used to have cup of black coffee.

I don’t think I need to tell you about this. Law students very well know about the post-lunch syndrome.

About Jagdalpur

It is a traveler’s, both haven and heaven. You would not want to leave the place once you visit it. There are uncountable tourist spots in and around the town within the range of 50 kilometeres.

There are beautiful waterfalls, lakes, valleys. If you are fond of architecture, you can go around the ancient temples, or if you are a nature lover, you can visit the Kanger Valley National Park.

The villages are worth spending time in, you can learn about the tribal culture and have a look at various artifacts and other handicrafts.

I know the first question people usually pose about Jagdalpur is regarding the Naxalite activities. Well, let me assure you, it is a well functioning town with corporate settlements.

People have been residing there since ages. People from all over the world come down there for various purposes-research, tourism, and even employment these days. So chill. It’s fun being there. No security issues.

Work Hard, Have Fun:

The forum’s functioning is closely related to legal affairs. So I had to spend most of the time in the court. Initially I was asked to observe the court functionings.

They took me all around the court’s campus and showed me various court rooms, and other offices. I met all the law officers and staff members. Being the youngest person in the entire campus, everyone knew me and I was paid much attention.

Since it was a district court, most of the affairs took place in Hindi medium; therefore it was necessary for me to learn all Hindi terminologies and legal jargons.

It was a bit difficult at first but I later became handy at it.

After brushing up my Hindi, I was allowed to fill in preformed and other records. I used to help them with trivial desk jobs, stamping, and data-entry etc.

In between, I could go around watching the court proceedings with Sir or his assistants. I was taught about cross-examination, verification of evidences and validation of documents, proofing, presentation of arguments and much more.

I had seek permission, from the head of the Bastar Bar Association, so I could go and read books available in the court library in free time or during lunch. It was pretty helpful because at that time, I was preparing for a moot competition.

Advocates there didn’t come much to the library unless they wanted to read newspapers, so I was able to easily avail all of the books. Though they still need to improve their collection. They had only limited number of books. New editions were hardly available.

Apart from the legal work, I used to do the research work on any whatever topic they allotted me. I used to sit back in the chambers and read up a lot of books.

Due to temporal constraints, I could only go for only one field task. Though they usually conduct it once every month. They organize camps and seminars in the villages. Various legal issues are addressed and important information is disseminated among the villagers.

The work was more fun as I told you I had found my interest in it. I was never given much work due to lack of experience.

Although the court closes at five, they used to leave me much earlier by 4 or sometimes even after lunch, when there was no work.

Takeaways
  1. An internship is meant to hone one’s professional skills. I got to learn quite a lot about an advocate’s job, court operations, managing clients, and other related works.
  2. Being in association with LEAF I became aware about the situation and condition of tribals and issues related with acquisition of forests products etc. Also, this is one of the reasons why I want to take up litigation, to serve the tribals, protect their rights and them from exploitation.
  3. My personal experience, working with them, was really good. You get to learn so much from their own experiences and lives. Arjun Sir especially is a great person with whom you cans share your problems and thoughts freely.
  4. You get to meet a lot of intellectual people. JagLag was working in collaboration with LEAF, so I had an opportunity to meet them and Ms. Bela Somari, a social activist and scholar; and many other whose name I can’t remember.
  5. Internship in a court can be really frustrating at times. Because you can’t be as you like. You always have to keep up a good demeanour. You have to tackle people with adverse views, who might also want to suppress your ideas, but somehow one learns to manage things gradually.
  6. Though it can’t be a major takeaway for me, if anybody else, a non-resident does an internship there, can enjoy his or her vacations to the fullest. Bastar Tourism, Incredible indeed!

Let’s come to the business part now-You must want to know about the stipend– Well, I didn’t ask for one. You may give a try. If you ask for it, they may offer you a stipend. But the experiences and memories I have made are invaluable. No stipend could have sufficed it.

 “Life itself is an experience which, you can get for nothing,so just sit back and enjoy”

This entry has been submitted for the LexisNexis-Lawctopus Internship Experience Writing Competition 2015-2016. iPleaders is the learning partner for this competition.

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