Dr. GR Raghavender, Joint Secretary at the National Mission for Justice Delivery & Legal Reforms shares his insights on social justice and Gram Nyayalaya, a central government scheme on rural justice, with Education Post’s Tanay Kumar.
You first studied botany, zoology, botany and then library science. After that you did your postgraduation in Development Studies. Why the switch?
I did my graduation in botany, zoology and chemistry as a basic degree. After that. I went to the University College of Arts and Social Sciences, Osmania University, Hyderabad, where I completed my bachelor’s in library and information sciences (ILSc) because I was really interested in reading books.
While studying library and information science, I came in contact with many students who were preparing for civil services. Many chose the subjects of arts and humanities for the Union Public Service Commission Civil Services Examination. So, before opting for civil services, I completed my master’s in history and archaeology with a gold medal. I the chose history and anthropology as subjects for the UPSC examination and got selected. I was first posted at the Economic Affairs Wing of the Ministry of Finance.
To improve performance and gain global perspective, several ministries keep sending civil servants to colleges and institutions that are globally recognised in their streams. I was selected by the ministry itself to study at the Institute of Development Studies under Erasmus University in the Netherlands. So, that’s how I completed my master’s in Development Studies. The course was really helpful for me to create good policies, analyze the existing ones around the world and discuss various issues. This study was of great help when I was drafting the copyright law that was enacted in 2012.
Please share your opinion on the new National Education Policy (NEP) 2020, and its multidisciplinary provision?
The NEP 2020 is really disruptive and encouraging as it doesn’t only stress on basic and advanced education but it also emphasizes job creation as well. The policy encourages students to not only get the education but also contribute to nation-building, either economically or through social engagements.
The multidisciplinary approach in the policy will empower students to learn several subjects and aspects of social development. Also, this provision will create a sense of empathy among students towards people from all strata of society. In short, it’s fantastic and futuristic.
What are some praiseworthy social and non-academic practices you came across during your time at Rotterdam?
Cleanliness is the first social practice I really admired in the Netherlands. Most of the people there religiously and regularly follow cleanliness and trash dumping. Every Wednesday, the garbage truck used to pick the trash that is separated into biological and non-biological waste. Plus, I never saw anyone throwing garbage on the roads or open areas. I would like to take this opportunity to thank our honourable Prime Minister Narendra Modi for launching the Swachch Bharat campaign (cleanliness campaign), which invoked an urgent sense of cleanliness among Indians.
Another practice was biking, or cycling as we call it in India. Dutch people cycle to wherever they need to go for their daily work. They almost never take out their automobiles unless absolutely necessary. It does not matter if the person is an executive at a big company or a security guard; they all cycle to work. Besides keeping the pollution in check, it brings about a sense of equality among citizens.
What fields of study would you recommend if someone wishes to work National Mission for Justice Delivery & Legal Reforms or the government in general?
Primarily, those students who are studying law and social justice are a good fit. Graduate students of law, public policy, social justice, legal affairs, policy management, social development, rural development, urban development, development studies may be good to work with the ministry. If there are other courses that are pertaining to these streams, they are also as helpful.
Plus, many ministries in both the center and states have started offering internship programs for young graduates if they are willing to work in policymaking or policy analysis. Students can also look out for them as well.
It is not easy to take out time to study while working a job. But you seem to have done it with aplomb. Any suggestions for our readers?
I think that three-four hours of studying is enough for anyone, job or no job. Moreover, governments the world over encourage staff to study further, to train well in subjects that are relevant to the respective department or organization. The Indian government too encourages civil servants to pursue education in policymaking.
Studying after getting a job is a matter of passion. To stay updated and connected to the global world, we must keep on updating our knowledge.
You completed your graduation when digital revolution had not hit the world. Are there a few things you can tell us about those days that the current generation must learn?
I remember when I was doing my M. Phil in 1989, I used to regularly visit the library of Osmania University for my research and I had handwritten my whole thesis. Submitting handwritten papers helped my generation remember exactly what they had learned. What I am trying to say is, no matter how digitalized the world gets, it’s important to keep some time aside to visit libraries or read printed books. I would also suggest allotting a time of your day to write by hand important sections/chapters/summaries of your courses.
More importantly, never plagiarize the original works of others. Ethics don’t permit you to copy or steal someone’s work and put your name on it. One should mention as references other people’s work if there is a need to cite it.
Please tell us about the Gram Nyayalaya scheme and how the Finance Ministry would ensure its execution?
The Gram Nyayalaya Act was brought in 2008 to ensure access to justice in villages and rural areas. The law provides for the establishment of Gram Nyayalayas at intermediate panchayat levels. Section 3 of Chapter 2 of the Act states that after consultation with the relevant states’ High Court, states may establish Gram Nyayalayas at the panchayat level. So, it has become a kind of an optional clause rather than a mandatory one.
Before this act, several states had already some laws of rural justice within the states. For example, Bihar has the Gram Kachahari Act and Himachal has Nyay Panchayat provision. Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Kerala and Maharashtra are those states that have enacted the Gram Nyayalaya rule in full essence.
The law states that there would be a Nyayadhikari in every Gram Panchayat of a village who would be appointed by the state government in consultation with the state’s High Court. The rule further states that a person shall not be qualified to be appointed as a Nyayadhikari unless he/she is eligible to be appointed as a Judicial Magistrate of the first class. Full operationalization of the act is still yet to happen in the country.
To monitor its delivery, the central government introduced guidelines in August 2021, enabling a central-level monitoring committee which regularly meets to keep a check on the implementation. Somehow, the COVID-19 pandemic also compelled stakeholders of the act to meet more on a regular basis via the internet. Earlier, it used to cost a lot for travel as well.
The country is in desperate need of impactful researches. Your take?
Studies like cyber laws, population studies, gender equality, social justice, researches that are related to women’s empowerment, subjects that address the digital divide among Indians, rural development, are really needed for our country. Good and impactful researches in rural justice area are really needed as cases are hardly reported in rural India. To address this problem, digitization is the apparent solution. Then research on the digital divide comes into the picture.