Report by Badal Tah, Rayagada: When one can not get justice anywhere, court is the last resort. This maxim has rightly been proved by a legal apparatus named District Legal Service Authority(DLSA) at Rayagada. In fact, those days of delayed justice to the poor is steadily decreasing because of free legal aid. DLSA, Rayagada under the chairmanship of Sri Biswajit Das, District Judge, Rayagada is in the limelight recently because of its pro-people legal initiatives.
In the absence of professional legal experts and advocates in the rural and tribal hinterland to guide the poor in issues of migration, marriage, labour appropriation, health, land, forest, food security, acid attack, sexual abuse, child trafficking, bonded labour, etc, justice becomes a far cry for the affected and oppressed. Very popular constitutional provisions like Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act(MGNREGA), Forest Rights Act(FRA), Bonded Labour Abolition Act, National Food Security Act(NFSA), Sexual Offence Act, Prevention of Child and Sexual Offence Act(POCSO), Prevention of Atrocities Act(POA), Right to Information Act(RTI), Right to Education Act(RTE), etc need to benefit the poor and ultra poor.
At this juncture, DLSA crept in to fill the gap and taking the justice to the doorstep of poor apart from lok adalats. From the time of Mr. M I Nabi, who officiated as the Secretary of DLSA and now is Chief Judicial Magistrate, Rayagada, scores of cases of poor were solved either through mediation or simplification of legal procedures and quick justice to the persons in despair. Later Sri Hrushikesh Sahoo, who is now the Secretary of DLSA, is spearheading the legal service at Rayagada. Achievements like number of reunions of separated and aggrieved families, compensation to rape affected girls and family members of the deceased migrated labourers are only tip of the iceberg.
Take the example of constitution of a band thirty six numbers of of para-legal volunteers(PLV) by DLSA, Rayagada, who, after proper training & orientation, are stationed at District Headquarters Hospital, District Labour Office(DLO), police stations in Rayagada, K.Singhpur, Chandili, Kumbhikota, Seskhal, Front office in the district court. These are the places where people come en masse with their problems and run from pillar to post for basic services. And the PLVs chip in readily. Village Legal Aid Clinics at prominent places like Pitamahal, Mukundapur, Chandili, Therubali, Gadiseskhal, Halwa and Gumma are being supported by some of these PLVs. These PLVs are honorary and do not avail any salary, wage or remuneration. The PLVs make the weaker sections of the society about their constitutional rights and the nature of the problems they are facing and facilitate a smooth process of approaching the DLSA to resolve those problems. At times, they have reported the DLSA about the transgression of laws. When poor persons are arrested, the PLVs have met them in the police station and advised of legal remedies available during pre-litigation stage through Lok Adalats, arbitration, conciliation & mediation. Several efforts have been made by these PLVs to secure compensation for the victims of crime under the provision of section 357-A Cr.P.C. & Odisha Victim Compensation Scheme-2017. With the authorization of DLSA, they visit jails, lock-ups, hospitals and children’s homes to ascertain legal service needs of the inmates. They report violations of child rights, child labour, girl-child trafficking to the nearest legal service institutions. They have made people aware about the benefits of inexpensive settlement of disputes relating to public utility services like post, telephone, electricity, insurance, water supply, hospital services through permanent lok adalats.
The services rendered through DLSA is also very quick. Dispute between husband Sk Darga, s/o- Sk venka sahib of Jagannathraj Puram village in Srikakulam district of AP and wife Sk Hameeda, d/o-Sk Abdullah staying in Budrawalsa of Rayagada town arose during the year 2016 because the husband was alcoholic. They got married during 2006 and had two girl children. The wife attempted for pre litigation on 26th July, 2017 and reunited on 18th December, 2017 in the presence of District Judge Sri Biswajit Das and DLSA Secretary Sri Hrushikesh Sahoo. The real life stories are aplenty. Till now more than ten lakhs of rupees have been distributed to victims of rapes, molestations and other atrocities. Thus these kind of legal services in Rayagada have not only become the last resort but also the last hope of the oppressed.