The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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CJI proposes boot to agents

Tamar (Ranchi), May 19: It is not every day that the Chief Justice of India (CJI) visits rural areas and meets villagers. But there was no tribal litigant at Tamar, 50 km from the state capital, today to embarrass the CJI, K.G. Balakrishnan.

If they were there, they did not care to put any question to him or the two other Supreme Court judges, Justice Ashok Bhan, the executive chairman of the National Legal Services Authority (NALSA), and Justice V.S. Sirpurkar, who accompanied him.

Invited by the Jharkhand Legal Services Authority (JHALSA), the CJI inaugurated a legal aid clinic and a law library for the tribals.

Half a dozen well-orchestrated questions did however highlight some of the dilemmas faced by the tribals today. Chaman Singh Munda, for example, finds himself in the familiar predicament of being left alone in the village.

His sons have migrated to the state capital, first for education and then for earning a livelihood.

They want to buy land at Ranchi and settle down. But the Chhotanagpur Tenancy Act allows transfer of land among tribals of the same police station.

Is there a legal way out of this situation'

Doman Singh Munda wanted to know why tribals continue to be implicated in false cases despite the central government enacting the Tribal Forest Act.

Kripa Nag wondered why banks continue to hound them even after the government has waived their loans.

Someone else asked why Jharkhand is the only state where panchayat polls have not been held.

The replies came from the deputy commissioner and the departmental secretaries. But they did not appear to convince the gathering.

There was little enthusiasm, however, as the judges delivered their speeches, translated in Nagpuria by the director of Tribal Welfare Research Institute, Prakash Oraon. It was when Oraon tried to translate the questions from the audience into English that he tied himself up in knots, drawing amused smiles from the visitors.

The CJI’s address was marked by a call to eliminate the middlemen. Huge funds, he pointed out, were earmarked for tribal welfare but not even 25 per cent reached the tribals.

The community, he conceded, has loads of problems and the only way to overcome them is by becoming conscious of their problems.

Both the judges from the apex court addressed the gathering in Hindi while Justice M.Y. Eqbal of the Jharkhand high court spoke in the local dialect, Nagpuria. A discordant note was struck by the advocate general S.B. Gadodia, who not only spoke in English but infuriated a section of the audience by harping on the greatness, generosity and kindness of the judges for “touching” the rural hinterland.

Jharkhand chief justice M Karpaga Vinayagam got quite carried away while welcoming the highest authority of the judiciary for coming down to the doorstep of tribals “to wipe out their tears”.

As the dignitaries drove back to the state capital, the suddenly animated gathering reflected that “solutions” to their legal problems remained distant.

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