Name, College

Sonal Okhade, National Law University, Nagpur.

Organisation

Chetna Mahila Vikas Kendra, Pulgate, Pune

Duration of internship

15th May to 13th June

Timings

10 a.m. to 6 p.m., six days a week.

How I applied

Through the internship committee at my college.

Nature of work

Arranging, filing and compiling the bulk of cases taken on by Chetna in the past 20-22 years of its existence.

Ideal for

First and Second-semester law students and MSW students.

The highlight of my internship 

A visit to the Yerwada Central Jail (women’s wing).

Summary of experience

My internship here was a mix-bag of knowledge and surprise. The reason was that I had come prepared for a month of no-strings-attached fun since my first internship (which was also at an NGO in my hometown) had left a very bad impression about NGOs for me in general. The result was that I had no interest in interning at any NGO but had to since I did not think anything higher up the charts was suitable for a law student in her second semester.

On my first day here, I interacted with the Chief Functionary and the soul of the NGO, Advocate Assunta Pardhe Mam. She exuded energy and competence from the get-go. It was amazing to hear her handle her workers over the phone, and see her do so in person. Even being as busy as only the head of an active and flourishing NGO can be, Mam Pardhe took out time for me on my first day to show me the ropes.

She showed me a PPT which elucidated the working of Chetna. She handed me a multitude of brochures which explained how Chetna connected the victims to appropriate authorities, what are the obligations of said authorities, what steps to be taken in times of such-and-such crisis and so on. I was also encouraged to see some videos of Chetna on YouTube. I got to know that Chetna worked primarily for women, children and elderly people.

The organization follows principles like good governance, equal social status for women and men, etcetera. Besides this, the day was not much eventful.

On the second day, Mam asked me to start arranging the number of cases encountered by Chetna in its 22 years since establishment. Seeing the mounds of case files looming before me, I got to work half-heartedly. Moreover, all of the cases were in Marathi, which made it really troublesome for me to even read the cases as I arranged them. I decided I would only arrange them month-wise.

That day, as I was going home, I asked Mam if she could allow me a 5-day work-week. It was then that my real internship started. I will never forget the talk Pardhe Mam and I had after that. She explained to me how I had painted an entirely incorrect picture of how an NGO should be. She shared her own life’s struggles and achievements with me, and how at this stage in my life I should focus more on developing myself than on things like sleep.

Needless to say, by the end of this lecture, I was greatly awakened and thoroughly ashamed. I was, hopefully, exponentially more respectful and zealous for the rest of my internship.

I started typing out the basic details of the cases that I filed in Excel at the advice of Pardhe Mam. Before long, I got the hang of it and as my speed and proficiency increased,  the admiration on Pardhe Mam’s face was its own reward.

Of the multitude of cases I managed to read from the stack of old case files, no two were really similar. The cases that I read ranged from commonplace to downright shocking. Nonetheless, they made for an interesting read.

Besides Pardhe Mam, Swati Mam, Seema Mam, and Pranouti Mam were there to guide and advice.

The Chetna team, besides taking on cases of the victims which approached it, is also in the habit of going on ‘Training’ sessions to various places in and around Pune (Pune being the organization’s major area of work). The idea is to make the law enforcement authorities and personnel aware of the laws that are absolutely essential for them to know if they want a hope of helping the victims which come to them. Chetna has been training in six laws chiefly, some of them being the POCSO Act, Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, etc. ­­

I accompanied the team to one such training session in Yerwada Central Jail, the women’s wing. It was an eye-opener. My first reaction to seeing the women there was pity at their condition, indignation for the little children who had to live with their mothers because of their tender ages followed swiftly by shock at the nature of crimes these seemingly innocent-looking women had committed.

The main lesson I learned by the end of it all was that all the women were concerned about were their own case and release, and that there was no place for pity in a jail. Action was what was required, whether to help or to punish.

I also took down two to three cases which came to Chetna. It was a different experience, and it taught me how to listen and ask and all the while keep my own emotions in check. One thing was certain to me: it would not do to take my work home with me. It was fine to sympathize with the victims, but the moment I made their problems mine I was guaranteed not to function properly.

The biggest disappointment, however, was that I did not get much exposure regarding orders and cases or the briefs which were supposed to be handled by me. Paucity of time, or whatever else the reason might be, it would be a source of constant regret that I could not work to my full potential.

After all is said and done, I would highly recommend the internship to a first-year law student or any person interested in or having the MSW Degree.

Pros

A good amount of practical experience to be gained. Lots of benefits working under the Chief Functionary Advocate Assunta Pardhe Mam owing to her vast knowledge and experience in the field.

Cons

Not much legal work allotted in one month of internship. Everything, and I repeat, everything I dealt with was in Marathi. But I got to learn a lot because of this, so it is not necessarily a con.

Work Environment

Appropriate.

Any conveyance facility: No.

Stipend: None.

Internship Rating: 6.5/10

Have a blast!

Feel free to contact for queries.

Sonal Okhade.

 

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