The right to rights

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Democracy is for the people, by the people and of the people. Is this not something that we have been taught in school? Something, that most of us may take for granted. Something, that we may not have experienced as a struggle right at the grass root level. And more often than not, the blame game is the common response to any challenge being faced. “Be the change you want to be” – these words by Mahatma Gandhi could not hold truer. Are challenges faced head-on, with pragmatic solutions or are excuses found? Are problems addressed with a joint solution by placing minds and hearts together or do selfish motives find precedence?

In today’s world, we are quite aware of our rights – sometimes more so than our duties. But let us think again; are we aware of our rights? The village of Nuh district (earlier Mewat), Haryana, places an example which serves as a food-for-thought.

Sageer is the block coordinator of the Nuh block, Nuh district. Since six years he has been tirelessly associated with the cause of generating awareness amongst villagers about their rights that the government has entitled them to ask for, but which due to many factors, has seen unprecedented delays and strives. Sageer says “I help people, here so that they help themselves. Awareness about various government schemes and sometimes something even as basic as pension and ration, which are very necessary for the very sustenance of a family. We educate people on what mid-day meals are, actually, all about – types and quality or about quotas of ration due to families. Besides this, and I feel, one of the most important of which is the confidence to use this awareness – this knowledge – in order to stand up for one’s rights.”

The fact that villagers have yet to be made aware of their complete entitlement is mind-boggling, especially in today’s time and age, where media plays such a vital role. So, if rights are demanded, then are they given? Though this may not always be the case, from the very beginning, a system of feedback and complaint is in place, which ensures that almost always the citizen is granted his/her due. The step-wise hierarchy in the complaint/feedback system is followed in order to ensure a just redressal system.

Sageer’s journey has been an interesting one. He completed his BEd degree, but the desire to bring a change in society was always strong, which is when he came across a recruiting exercise by Sehgal Foundation, Good Governance Now, GGN team, after which he underwent a practical and intensive training – a method he still observes while ‘training’ freshers. Understandably, “learning by doing” is the best way forward. The training, he says, comprised of a whole range of subjects, including not only in-depth knowledge of government schemes and similar, but also creative and technical aspects like photo-shoots, video recordings, creative writing and so on.

The impact of his journey, he feels, has left a deep longing for seeking the truth and fighting for the same. Does he feel challenged or overwhelmed at times? “Society has given so much to me. The work that I do is my return to society. When people get that long –awaited pension or that due ration, the blessing they shower, the happiness they show, the smiles and emotions are all overwhelming. This is why I still continue my work with the foundation – for the simple peace and happiness it gives. Of course, there are threats and challenges, but working around them is the art – that is, actually, life.”

Any life-changing instance? “There are many, but there is one I recall quite clearly. A group of women, came to me once, in despair, complaining about the dire shortage of water in their village. It was then decided that all women get together and take the matter to the District Collector. I did accompany them, but what was heartening to see was how they presented their case, in a confident and efficient manner, despite being illiterate. The result was that an official reached their village to address the problem, even before they could.” Cases like these are heart-warming, how with a little help, a little support, changes can be initiated, sometimes even with a domino effect. What next one asks Sageer? “Well, there is a long way to go. The dowry system still prevails. Girl children are still not given the right to education, completely. Yes, there are challenges, but then who says one is afraid of them. They are my life and my life is them.”