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Monday, June 11, 2012

IDIA Scholar files writ at Gujarat HC; gets interim stay order for a seat at GNLU


Successful IDIA scholars reflect a truly diverse mix, comprising candidates from various backgrounds (children of farmers, stone quarry workers, shopkeepers and clerks) and hailing from various states such as Karnataka, West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh, Jharkand, Rajasthan, Bihar, Manipur and Mizoram.
Each one of them has a truly inspiring story.But the most inspiring among this year's scholars is perhaps that of Donnie Ashok, a boy from Kolkata who literally and metaphorically rose from the ashes to secure a seat at one of India’s prestigious National Law Universities (NLU’s), namely GNLU (or Gujarat National Law University). Donnie’s father is a painter by profession with an annual income of less than Rs. 1.5 lakhs. Owing to severe financial problems faced by his family, Donnie’s schooling has been erratic, to say the least. He undertook various types of errands to earn a living, but the money he earned was a pittance compared to his school fees. He could not fund his education, and had to drop out from Class 12.

Fate intervened and he heard about the Increasing Diversity to Increase Access (IDIA) from Ramanuj Mukherjee, a friend of his sister’s, who went on to become his mentor and guide. Ramanuj was an active member of IDIA and a topper of the law entrance at NUJS as well. Donnie scored the first rank in the IDIA Aptitude Test (a test conducted all across India to select deserving underprivileged children that IDIA would support) and was admitted into the programme immediately. IDIA paid his school fees and put him back in school, after persuading his Principal to re-admit him to Class XII despite the delay. 

By virtue of sheer grit and single-minded determination, Donnie not only studied for his class XII boards but also burnt the midnight oil to prepare for CLAT (with the help of training by IDIA volunteers along with its partner LST, a leading CLAT coaching centre). Finally his prayers have been answered and hard work rewarded with an All India General Rank of 427 in CLAT 2012. With this rank, the CLAT committee allottted him for admission to the Gujarat National Law University, Gandhinagar.


Unfortunately, rather than fostering social justice and encouraging this underprivileged boy by securing his admission, GNLU tripped him up with their highly arbitrary admission criteria and refused him admission. 


Late last year, GNLU imposed a new eligibility criterion for admission, stating that a student who does not clear class 12 in the first shot is not eligible for admission at GNLU. As you can appreciate, such a condition is clearly arbitrary and bears no relation to the aptitude of a particular child for the study of law. It is particularly  ridiculous, since the main CLAT exam itself can be taken any number of times. Further, the said condition in the brochure goes against GNLU's own regulations which simply require that at the time of coming for admission, the student must have fully passed his or her 12th exams with no back papers. It does not say anything about whether or not the person should clear Class 12 in the first or second shot. 


Unfortunately, the GNLU admin seems to suggesting that an informational brochure prevails over the Regulations passed under the GNLU Act. We therefore took the matter to court and the Gujarat High Court (Justice KS Jhaveri) immediately ordered that a seat be left vacant at GNLU, till the matter is resolved. The court has asked both parties to appear tomorrow, wherein we hope that it will pass orders on the relief sought: namely that this highly arbitrary and illegal condition be struck off and Donnie be admitted to GNLU. We filed this writ only this morning, and the court passed the order this afternoon. We're hoping that the matter will be taken to its logical conclusion tomorrow and that Donnie's seat will be fully and finally secured. 


IDIA is grateful to a whole lot of lawyers and law students who came out in support of this effort. Dr. Mukul Sinha appeared pro bono for Donnie and was assisted by Mr. RR Mankad. Mr. Protik Prakash Banerjee (Junior Standing Counsel, State of West Bengal), Mrs. Pushpa Menon (Advocate, Madras High Court), Mr. Debesh Panda (Advocate, Supreme Court of India) and PXV Law Partners (Mr. Deepto Roy, Mr. Pingal Khan, Mr. Madhukeshwar Desai, Ms. Rukmini Das) gave us legal opinions in less than 12 hours from GNLU's rejection of Donnie's application. The writ petition was drafted by Mr. Debesh Panda, Mrs. Amrita Panda, Mr. Sannoy Das, Mr. Deepak Raju and Ms. Rukmini Das. We also thank a retired Judge who not only gave Donnie legal advice, but also provided Donnie with accommodation and warm hospitality. 

You can download from the petition from here.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Internships for IDIA (INAT) Team


What is the IDIA?
The IDIA (Increasing Diversity by Increasing Access) Movement started off under the leadership of Professor Shamnad Basheer of the West Bengal National University of Juridical Sciences (NUJS) as a movement to eliminate the inequities of education. Some very disturbing statistics reflected a complete lack of diversity, with a majority of the students clearing the entrance tests for these Universities hailing from the upper middle socio economic class bracket. The IDIA team set itself up, first in NUJS, and then in other National Law Schools throughout the country, as an attempt to question and change these statistics. The aim is to provide access to the resources required to crack the entrance exam to students from marginalized communities and regions, who would not be able to get access to them otherwise.
What does IDIA do?
Local IDIA Chapters have been set up in different parts of India. These local chapters have conducted aptitude tests in the respective states, and have started an intensive training programme for those who did well, and those who are interested in pursuing law as a career. A lot of students were found to be initially very apprehensive about their career prospects, but enough information was disseminated in this regard to convince most of them about the advantages of this career choice.

IDIA also selects students for the training program through its exam called IDIA National Aptitude Test which is held every year in several centres across the country.

Last year INAT helped us select some of the most deserving IDIA scholars. 14 out of the 50 scholars trained by IDIA made it to various National Law Schools, including NLS, NALSAR, NUJS, NLIU, GNLU etc. through CLAT 2011.
What Will Interning With the IDIA Mean?
Interning with the IDIA will mean being part of the teaching process for the IDIA scholars and interacting with IDIA scholars and other volunteers. This is an immense opportunity, more so for law students, because the IDIA Scholars are not only exceptionally bright, but also extremely keen to learn about the Law, and understand its various facets. While most students would cherish the process of teaching in itself, the IDIA experience is that much more of a process of self-discovery in that it deals with children who have managed to devise incredibly ingenuous ways of learning for themselves.

This internship presents the opportunity of being part of something extraordinary, something that might change the face of legal education in the country, but will definitely change your paradigm of life.
Requirements
All interns will be expected to help with a wide variety of work. For instance, we require volunteers to help us with registration for INAT which would be conducted on 6th November 2011 in 16 cities in the country. Volunteers would be required to be available on phone, take calls from students who have queries regarding law as a career, National Law Schools, scholarship provided by IDIA etc. They would be working for a month as a part of the registration team for INAT, helping students get registered for the exam.

Volunteers do not need to be based at any particular location in India - they would only be required to be available on phone and email everyday during this one month.

No specialised experience or training is required and they can feel free to come up with new, innovative modes of reaching out to more students and schools across the country to spread the word about INAT and in turn help us select the brightest students as IDIA scholars.

This would be a paid internship and all interns found to have worked in a committed manner by the end of the stipulated time period will be granted certificates for their efforts signed by Professor Shamnad Basheer, on behalf of the IDIA Initiative.

For further details, feel free to email Diptoshree Basu at dbasu3@gmail.com or call at 09831063675.

Diptoshree Basu

INAT Co-ordinator

Intern with IDIA, Sikkim Chapter




WHAT IS IDIA?


The IDIA (Increasing Diversity by Increasing Access) Movement started off under the leadership of Professor Shamnad Basheer of the West Bengal National University of Juridical Sciences (NUJS) as a movement to eliminate the inequities of education. Some very disturbing statistics reflected a complete lack of diversity, with a majority of the students clearing the entrance tests for these Universities hailing from the upper middle socio economic class bracket. The IDIA team set itself up, first in NUJS, and then in other National Law Schools throughout the country, as an attempt to question and change these statistics. The aim is to provide access to the resources required to crack the entrance exam to students who would not be able to get access to them otherwise.

WHAT DOES IDIA DO?

Local IDIA Chapters have been set up in different parts of India. These local chapters have conducted aptitude tests in various chapters, and have started an intensive training programme for those who did well, and those who are interested in pursuing law as a career. A lot of students were found to be initially very apprehensive about their career prospects, but enough information was disseminated in this regard to convince most of them about the advantages of this career choice.


In addition, the IDIA has been pushing relentlessly for reforming the CLAT. These concerted efforts have resulted in the CLAT Committee agreeing to various affirmative measures—for instance, removing the section on static general knowledge, and legal knowledge completely from the paper. The rationale is to test the aptitude of the students, rather than the knowledge.


WHAT WILL INTERNING WITH IDIA MEAN?


Interning with the IDIA will mean being part of the teaching process for the IDIA scholars. The subjects to be taught include English, Logical Reasoning, Legal Reasoning, General Knowledge and Maths (grade ten level). This is an immense opportunity, more so for law students, because the IDIA Scholars are not only exceptionally bright, but also extremely keen to learn about the Law, and understand its various facets. 


While most students would cherish the process of teaching in itself, the IDIA experience is that much more of a process of self-discovery in that it deals with children who have managed to devise incredibly ingenuous ways of learning for themselves. This internship presents the opportunity of being part of something extraordinary, something that might change the face of legal education in the country, but will definitely change your paradigm of life.


REQUIREMENTS


All interns will be expected to help with a wide variety of work. For instance, they may be expected to conduct weekly classes, act as scribes for practice tests, help in analysis of test results etc. The internship programme will extend to at least four weeks. All students who have graduated from school, and are currently enrolled in a course in Law or are graduates from the same, are qualified to apply. Selections are subject to the discretion of the Internship Cell. No specialised experience or training is required and you can feel free to come up with new, innovative modes of teaching and working.


All interns found to have worked in a committed manner by the end of the stipulated time period will be granted certificates for their efforts signed by Professor Shamnad Basheer, on behalf of the IDIA Initiative.


For further details, feel free to email  at : jwaladthapa@gmail.comjsphrenthlei@yahoo.co.in or call at 9593981263, 9007643825,

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Second IDIA –National Aptitude Test (I-NAT) on 6th November, 2011

With the successful performance of the first ever National Aptitude Test by IDIA (I-NAT) through which IDIA was able to successfully place 14 students from low income background in various National Law Universities, IDIA is all set to conduct the second National Aptitude Test (I-NAT) on November 6, 2011 at 14 cities across the country, for under-privileged and financially weak students interested in appearing in the Common Law Admission Test (CLAT) 2012 and 2013.

Last April, IDIA had chosen 50 students, based on their performance in the first I-NAT, for free CLAT coaching and training by IMS, a pioneer coaching institute for CLAT. Out of these 50 students, 11 were able to make it to various NLUs with one student making it to NLSIU, Bangalore with an All India Rank of 45 in the General category. Karthika Annamalai, another IDIA scholar and a Quarry worker's daughter has made it to NLIU, Bhopal.

Every year, Increasing Diversity by Increasing Access to Legal Education (IDIA) as part of its vision of bringing diversity in law colleges, plans on choosing a few deserving, under privileged and financially weak students, interested in making a career in Law, for free training and coaching for CLAT.

The IDIA National Aptitude Test is expected to be more widespread and bigger this time, with around 19 centres across the country and estimated registrations of more than 1500 students. The cities where the test would be conducted are

New Delhi
Kolkata
Bhopal
Lucknow
Bangalore
Patna
Mumbai
Chennai
Hyderabad
Ranchi
Guwahati
Gandhinagar
Jodhpur
Cochin

The test will be on 6th November 2011 from 10 am to 11 am ( 60 Minutes) and the questions will be related to basic General Knowledge, Logic and basic English.

All students whose combined income of parents is less than Rs. 40,000 a month are eligible to apply.

Interested students may apply for registration here: idianat2011@gmail.com or call any of the following IDIA volunteers:

Bharat Itagi : +919845442956

Anukanksha Kalkeri: +919845442924

Pranusha Kulkarni: +919164197317

All candidates will be required to send scanned copy of their parent’s income certificate to the above email ID for confirmation of their registration

The seats are very limited and is on a first come first serve basis. Everyone is requested to immediately make the registrations. All selected INAT Scholars will be given completely free coaching by IMS and there will not be any payment for the same.

Also, Please spread the word around and aware as many students you can who fit the category and eligibility for I NAT.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Sensitisation at G S Jangid Memorial School, Jodhpur



IDIA Team consisting of Piyush Kumar, Gautam Nayak and Animesh K. conducted sensitisation in G S Jangid School, a residential school situated at the outskirts of Jodhpur. The principal of the school, Dr. Rekha Sankhla, was very enthusiastic about the sensitization and took an active part in it. She accompanied us to all the class rooms and introduced the team to the students. Although she had no idea about NLUs and CLAT, we could inspire her to believe in our cause after a brief introduction to law as a multifaceted career option in the present scenario. 

The sensitization in G S Jangid School was on a small scale owing to the small strength of students in classes 11th and 12th. Nevertheless, it was highly interactive. The session started with a brief introduction about National Law Schools and moved on to the career options available to a law graduate from these institutes.
The response was overwhelming as students kept on asking question ranging from the pattern of CLAT to the subjects taught in NLUs. The single most important concern by the students as well as the faculty members was with respect to placement. Most of them were skeptical about placement, drawing parallels with the ever mushrooming engineering colleges which promised 100% placements but never delivered on it. It is always tough to convince an unaware crowd, especially with prejudices. However, we tried our best to give them the real picture and emphasized on the fact that one could not be lackadaisical after getting into a law school and it required a hard work before one could grab lofty pay packages. We also informed them that unlike other traditional/vocational colleges, NLUs do not have long breaks in the midst of the academic sessions and attendance was important. We also briefed them about internships which form a major part of the learning exercise in a law school. After an extensive lecture on mooting, conferences and publications, the young faces showed some amount of agreement. The rest is upto them as to the choices they wish to make. 


An aptitude test will be conducted soon as a follow up.

Report Prepared by Piyush Kumar

Friday, July 29, 2011

Join IDIA – Change your life as well as others!

Karthika Annamalai, Ria Shiuli, T. Andalu and Shivandu Pandey are just a few among the many names who are no less than student icons in themselves now!


Brush up your knowledge about the legal goings-on in case you don’t know who they are, these are all those real proud heroes of their lives, who have showcased extraordinary grit and courage to nip adversity at its bud and take life as it came to them! Meet the IDIA Scholars, who cracked the CLAT 2011, and are now in the premier National Law Universities in India. All of them hail from lesser than modest backgrounds, having been subjected to the harshest hardships in life. Armed with nerve-cracking guts in their blood, steering through life’s challenges, they now stand with their heads held high, among those multitudinous well-fed, well-to-do kids, who have made it to the NLUs.  



IDIA is what has brought in all the difference and spark to their lives. We started out as a pan-India student movement in making quality legal education accessible to the poorest of the poor in the country, and now in the second year of our existence, are very much alive and kicking! We have met with tremendous success in our very first year, and thanks to the coverage given by various news papers, be it The Hindu, Indian Express, or the Times of India, we have received widespread applause and publicity. Our good work continues to be appreciated by all the quarters in the legal fraternity till date.


We have had an excellent set of people working with us and the success rate speaks for itself, of their wide capabilities and competencies. 


The present Directors of State Chapters for the tenure 2011-12 are:


1. Aathira Menon – Karnataka Chapter - menon.aathira@gmail.com
2. Darshana Mitra – West Bengal Chapter - darshana.mitra@gmail.com
3. Apoorv Shah – Gujarat Chapter - apoorv.phoenix@gmail.com
4. Prateek Mohapatra – Uttar Pradesh Chapter - prateek.rmlnlu@gmail.com
5. Gowri Harikumar – Kerala Chapter -gowrivrh@gmail.com
6. Rachit Ranjan – Bihar Chapter -ranrachit@gmail.com
7. Srishti Aishwarya – Jharkhand Chapter - silkjutes@gmail.com
8.     Abhishek Kumar - Rajasthan Chapter - abhi.nlu@gmail.com
9.     Jwala Thapa & Joseph Renthlei -North East Chapter - jwaladthapa@gmail.com
10.   Amartya Bag, Sayobani Basu & Vivek Jain - Orrisa Chapter - abag.kls@gmail.com


Not only the State Heads, we also have a wonderful team looking after the National Verticals. Here are their honorary mentions:


1. Research and Policy – Prajna Mohapatra (NUJS)
2. IDIA Disability – Anusha Reddy and Vaishnavi (NUJS)
3. IDIA Training – Sumitra Suresh (NALSAR) and Srishti Goyal (NUJS)
4. Core Advisory and Implementation – Raghul Sudheesh and Arnab Roy
5. Funding – Jhalak Kakkar (NUJS)
6. Admissions and Scholarship – Megha Kaladharan (NLSIU)


Call for Student Directors – State Chapters and All-India Verticals



At the behest of this second year of our existence, we are all set to spring in some fresh blood into our workforce! Now, when this is the lightening speed with which we are moving ahead, why not join us and be a part of history in the making? Why not spearhead the change you so-dearly want to see in the world? We ideally expect our IDIA Directors to possess the following qualities:


1. Should be proactive and willing to take initiative

2. Should be bold enough to take decisions under pressure of time and/or other factors
3. Should possess strong inter-personal skills and should be able to lead teams
4. Should be able to think out of the box and should be innovative
5. Most importantly, should be committed to the IDIA cause and should be able to spend a significant amount    of time on IDIA consistently throughout the year. 


If you think you have the above mentioned qualities, then IDIA is made for you!


We invite applications for the post of State Heads to kick-start new chapters and for following posts in the All-India Verticals:


1. Publicity and Media
2. Website
3. Sensitization
4. Mentorship

Send in your CV and expression of interest to idiadiversity@gmail.com
to be a part of our team. Those of you who are interested in being a part of Publicity and Media - All India Vertical; please mail your CV's to raghulsudheesh@gmail.com


We are also looking for people to join the specific teams which already have team leaders listed; so if you are interested in joining those specific teams please email the team leaders directly in their id's listed against their names.


Join our Google Group

You are most welcome to give in your inputs as to how best you can serve our purpose and how best can IDIA be improvised. If you wish to be a part of our Google group, drop in your mails to Shambo Nandy at shambonandy@gmail.com, and stay updated with our new programs and ideas. 


Anything more you want to know about us, visit our website

Monday, June 20, 2011

My Past Can’t Tie Me Down says Karthika Annamalai – The IDIA girl who made it to NUJS


I remember a time when I would sit in my neighbor’s house drinking milk that had a cloying smell. My cousin would come running in, yelping with pain and cursing in Tamil between her husky wails. “Let him go to hell,” she would shout. My neighbors would automatically lock her in one of their musty storage rooms, and we would resume our activities as if she had never come.
Her father, drunk with alcohol and staggering between his threats of murder, would stumble in with a heavy piece of firewood in his hand, asking if my cousin was hidden in the house anywhere. As the fat old woman of the house held me close and gave me a warning look not to give the secret away, she responded with a threatening disgust that my cousin was nowhere to be found. My uncle would then walk all around the village, in its sugarcane and rice fields, cursing and searching, while my auntie stood submissively in the doorway. Tears flowed down her face, hot with shame and hopelessness. I would return to their house only once my uncle was either nowhere to be seen or fast asleep. After my auntie would put me to sleep, I would lie in bed wondering what my mother was doing, where she was and if she had abandoned me. My heart was so heavy that my teary eyes would lull me to sleep.

As soon as I would get up each morning, my cousin would wash my face and my auntie would give me curd to eat my rice with. I would then follow my cousin, whom I was very fond of, to graze our cow. He would teach me to pet and feed our cow. Sometimes we would go on small adventures to our neighbor’s mango fields or we would go on top of the village rocks to eat prickly pears, not minding that they were staining our clothes pink and that the small thorns were in our hands and tongue. It was during these times that I would forget that my mother, along with my six-month-old brother, were somewhere far away searching for work. She had to give up being a housewife and look for work to support our family once my father had passed away. When I was bored, I would remember my mother with so much longing and loneliness that I would start to cry.

When I turned three, my mother sent for me. Like my aunt and uncle, she too had found work in a quarry. Our house had four granite slabs covered with mud for walls and stacks of neatly tied woven coconut leaves for a roof. After settling down here, I would walk about the feces covered mud roads with my skirt lifted shamelessly over my head to avoid the merciless sun and the rising dust and smoke from the quarry. Otherwise, I would follow my mother down the steep quarry where I would sit a few meters away, watching her frail body shatter stones with a heavy hammer. I suppose it was during a time like this, though many years later, that a piece of stone hit me on my forehead. Curious and bored, I picked it up. It was crudely shaped like a heart and had tiny specks of gold on it. It is one among the three things I keep on my bed for good luck.  It is a tangible reminder of where I came from.

Two other items that are constantly present on my bed are reminders of my present, and my future: my art supplies and preparatory books.  If not for Shanti Bhavan, I would have little need for – or interest in – these things.

Since being admitted to Shanti Bhavan at the age of four, the hours I spent letting my imagination run wild instead of going for physical training session has resulted in me receiving various awards and titles within my school for outstanding performance in the field of visual art. Now, drawing abstract pictures, being recommended by many teachers and classmates to make posters, and being asked to make cards for various people is a medium through which I express my passion for art.  This is a talent that would not have been nurtured or encouraged had I not attended Shanti Bhavan.

The preparatory books, on the other hand, are scattered on my bed because I am soon appearing for my entry into a law college.  I decided years ago that I wanted to be a human rights lawyer, fighting against the many social injustices that exist in India, more than a handful of which I have witnessed myself in my family and community.  The values instilled in me at Shanti Bhavan – those of humility, honesty, and generosity – have all impressed upon me the necessity to always work to help those who are less fortunate than me in any way possible.  This is where my desire to work as a human rights lawyer stems from.  I also hope that working in the field of law in India will provide me the skills I need to one day alleviate poverty and injustice on a broader scale, hopefully in a political position in India.  Ideally, I will one day become the Prime Minister.


Every item I cherish communicates much about me.  As I reflect on the past 14 years of my life, I realize they are tied to one of my two lives – that of a village girl who grew up in a world of sadness and desperation, devoid of hope, and the other of an educated and confident woman, who was given an amazing opportunity to aspire.  Both of these lives compose who I am, and equip me with the knowledge to one day change the country I live in.