Aritra Mondal, a first year law student at The West Bengal National University of Juridical Sciences, recently completed an internship at Area Networking and Development Initiatives (ANANDI), Gujarat. Here, he describes the eventful period of his internship at ANANDI in his own words.
IDIA thanks ANANDI for providing this amazing learning opportunity to our scholars. We also wish Aritra the very best for his law school journey, and look forward to hearing many more exciting and interesting snippets from future internships!
Name of the Organization:
Area Networking and Development Initiatives (ANANDI), Gujarat.
B-4/1, Sahajand Tower, Jivraj Cross Roads, Ahmedabad – 380051, Gujarat.
Duration of the Internship:
30th April – 31st May, 2018.
Main Tasks/Projects executed during Internship:
1. Conducted a survey on compliance of the National Food Security Act, 2013 (NFSA, 2013) in 8 villages of Morbi district(Maliya Taluka) in Gujarat.
The villages are primarily inhabited by the denotified tribe, Miyana. The data collected comprised of cases regarding the condition of Anganwaadis, Public Distribution System (PDS) centres, Old Age Pension, Widow Pension, Maternity Benefit under NFSA, 2013, and the quantities of take-home ration received by newborns, pregnant women, and lactating mothers.
2. Did exhaustive statute-based research on the NFSA, 2013 & The Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006, including all prior acts leading up to the aforementioned Acts.
3. Did research and field interventions on the status of the livelihood & the rights in workplace of Salt Pan workers of the Maliya Miyana tribe.
4. Visited numerous government officials and discussed the major issues in different villages and possible measures to tackle them.
5. Collected evidence of denials, compiled a list of applicants from the village, and helped them draft applications in the Lok Adhikar Kendra with the assistance of members of the Maliya Mahila Sakti Sangathan.
Did you like the internship? Why/Why not?
Yes, I did.
Frankly though, at the beginning of the internship, after going through several written works of ANANDI, I was kind of afraid of what exactly I was stepping into; because while the idea of working with a feminist collective is enthralling, if that feminist collective quotes Catharine MacKinnon and Andrea Dworkin in their work, you ought to be worried.
Having no other prior information regarding ANANDI, I was afraid that this internship was going to be just like another radical feminism workshop.
However, I was proven completely wrong in about a day or two. The work environment at ANANDI is pleasantly amicable; so much so, that it never felt like an internship to begin with. Somehow, ANANDI manages to emulate what I can only refer to as the perfect working environment.
Despite having a tremendous workload, I never felt like I was, in fact, working. Everyone at ANANDI, especially the co-directors, actively tried (and succeeded) to inspire me in every step of the way.
Some would say ANANDI has redefined feminism. I say they have rediscovered it.
Would you want to intern here again? Why/Why not?
Of course, I would. In fact, I am more than willing to do the same internship in the next semester, and continue the work that I left incomplete.
The reason I would like to work here again is somewhat… ineffable. What impressed me the most about this organization (besides the obvious work that they do with women, children, and the de-notified tribes) is their work ethic and division of labour.
Not only does everyone has their heart set in in what they do; ANANDI functions like a hive-minded extra-terrestrial organism, where everyone is in perfect sync, working towards a unified goal (much like IDIA), and everyone does every kind of work, irrespective of their designations, and don’t mind lending a hand.
All light-hearted banter aside, when I interacted with people from the communities in Maliya, the Government officials, and the Anganwaadi & the PHC workers, I was shocked to find out how big of an issue casteism is in the rural vistaars of Gujarat.
For example, the disparity of treatment (on behalf of the government officials) between the denotified (DNT) and the non-DNT villages in Morbi and Rajkot, and the perspective of the localities on Dalits, is appalling to say the least.
But that is not the only reason I want to go back to ANANDI.
Most of the villagers in Maliya, in absence of any fertile land (or drinking water for that matter), primarily rely upon Salt pan farming, where the working conditions (read: contractual bonded labour) are deplorable to say the least; and the entire scenario is completely contradictory to what Vijay Rupani’s Twitter feed might suggest.
I do not know why I want to go back there; I might not even be able to achieve anything at all. But I will try, to the best of my abilities, to bring at least some amount of reform in that community. And I want to do it through Area Networking and Development Initiatives because as their name suggests, they are truly the masters of networking in that region and it would simply be impossible to do so without their help.
I have already given up hope of there being any major policy reforms in the foreseeable future. Meanwhile, maybe I can sensitize the localities about alternate methods of soil leaching, or some form of alternate cultivation which is possible in a salty, infertile land, and is also economically sustainable.
For instance, the Dragon Fruit (Pitaya), being a xerophytic plant, can be easily grown in dry, salty soil, has a great market value, is highly in demand and is exported from India and Bangladesh to the South-East Asian countries on a regular basis.
What did you learn at the internship?
Besides developing my teamwork, time-management and public speaking skills, I have learnt three facts during the internship:
1. Fact -1: The BJP government (whom I used to support wholeheartedly prior to this internship) in power is this country’s worst nightmare, and is slowly driving this country towards its inevitable doom. (I do not blame the people for being naive and voting for BJP out of spite either, they are just channelling their pent-up frustration caused by decades of mutated Nehruvian Secularism, which is anything but secular)
2. Fact -2: The Indian Government has precedents of refusing to delve into the foreseeable repercussions of a policy because they simply do not want to account for on-the-ground realities. (The implementations of NFSA, 2013 was so horrible in this region that it reminded me of the Khariar Bull tragedy; another perfect example of how to take something that works, and render it dysfunctional)
3. Fact -3: “The Devil is in the details.”