Ashok Kumar/OneWorld South Asia
In what has proved to be a successful example of how ICTs could help bridge the distance between the government and common people residing in the far flung areas of a large country like India, the voice-based information kiosks are providing the much needed service on social welfare laws, policies and schemes to marginalised sections of the society.
The voice based legal information kiosks or NyayaPath as they are called have been set up in the largely tribal states of Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh under a joint initiative of the Department of Justice, Ministry of Law & Justice, Government of India, UNDP and OneWorld Foundation India.
A total of 50 kiosks (25 in each state) have been set up and are equipped with latest user friendly utilities and facilities like the touch screen, free print facility, animated videos, content in local languages like Santhali and Chhattisgarhi.
The kiosks with their unique features have attracted 56,000 people from the remote areas of twin tribal states in providing them with legal information assistance of any kind. The assistance booths come as a comprehensive package as they deal with a variety of themes.
The initial feedback suggests that out of a total of twelve themes on which the kiosks are programmed to help assistance seekers, information on themes like women rights, senior citizen rights, rights of a citizen in police station and RTI are being viewed the most.
This information could further help the government in getting an idea of the maximum types of queries being posed by the people which could be further helpful in devising more informed grievance redressal mechanisms.
To guide people through the navigation process of the NyayaPath and to smoothen out the process further, Para Legal Volunteers have been appointed as Kiosk Operators who help people in navigating through the kiosk and extend support in linking them with the District Legal Service Authorities (DLSAs).
Richa Raj Gupta, a para legal volunteer, who also works as a kiosk operator after due training by OneWorld, in the Sarguja district of Chhattisgarh, says that while educated people are able to navigate through the kiosk on their own, those who are not, need some initial guidance to understand the nuances.
Richa informs that while men in Sarguja generally ask about the RTI and the land rights, more than half of the women who visit the kiosks do so to get legal information around martial issues. “More men than women approach the kiosks. Around 55 per cent of the women ask for legal information about martial discord,” she said.
While professional lawyers explain simple legal issues in a complicated way, the easy language of communication used by these kiosks make them dear to the local population. “Tribal people are the biggest beneficiaries as seventy percent of all people seeking legal assistance through kiosks are from tribal communities,” she says.