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RNA Research & Archives
The constitution has been a part of our civics syllabus in school, but a citizen’s initiative founded in Mumbai is taking it to the next level. ‘We The People’ (WTP), a citizens network, conducts various programs and a special ‘Nagrik Nukkad’ or citizens cafe on a regular basis to make people aware about their constitutional rights, how to use them and make the state machinery work for their good.What began as a small working group of 10 people in 2006, WTP was formally introduced in 2010 with 7 trustees and 30 anchors. Today, the group has 100 anchors across the country and around 3,000 members. “We teach a 6 module curriculum covering the preamble, fundamental duties, rights, law making process, structure of the state and RTI. A civic action tool kit is also provided. We also train people to teach this module, they are then called anchors who also conduct citizens cafe in their localities,” said Dr Rama Shyam, who was responsible for consolidating the curriculum and headed the groups secretariat in Mumbai.The course is free of cost and anyone can become a member of WTP, which began because the founder of the group, Vinita Singh, felt that although people were working on various issues, they did not understand the essential building block of the solution which is the constitution. “We all have our religious texts like the Gita and the Quran, but the Constitution is the most important text for every Indian. Children are taught about it in school, but they don’t know what their role is in it. We began in Dharavi with semi-literate people and moved towards the educated lot. We knew that if the foundation is solid, the work will be effective.” she said.A fortnight ago, the group organised the Nagrik Nukkad at The Hive in Bandra. They are two-hour-long conversation triggers where people discuss the Constitution and facilitate dialogue. These two months, from Nov 26 to Jan 26, are full of activities for them as the constitution was adopted in this period. They have also launched their constitution connect campaign. “We want a café in every state in India by the end of this year and have covered 20 states already. We have a monthly newsletter discussing top issues plaguing the country, and how the Constitution figures in them. We send out Monday feature to our anchors where we scan all the newspapers and send the links of news articles that deal with fundamental rights and articles mentioned in the Constitution,” said Shyam.WTP has had success stories emerging out of their initiative along with other NGOs where women in Jogeshwari, who undertook the course and attended the cafes, have held the Public Distribution System accountable by getting the officials to post the prices on boards, keep an updated register and ensure regular inspection.”Before WTP came, we did not know that all our complaints need to be on paper and that we also need to demand written proof from people giving us assurance. We held many meetings and discussions with them and the women of the area took it upon themselves to identify issues and work on them. Nirmala tai in Dharavi got a road constructed in her lane with corporators funding, and women in the area keep the PDS officials on their toes. They even got an illegal mobile tower removed. They know they can work out their own issues and are not afraid of asking questions to the authorities,” said Bhaskar Kakad, a member of Sneha, an organisation that works towards women and children issues.Shobhna Kumar from Queer Ink has also partnered with them to bring the knowledge to the queer group in Mumbai. “Queer people are also citizens of India and need to know what their rights and duties are. People still don’t know what the preamble stands for, and this engages them in the basics and how it impacts their lives. It empowers them,” she said.WTP has also partnered with various schools and colleges across the country and have taken their course to to children who engage themselves with local governing bodies to bring change in their livelihoods. BOX: Get in touch with WTPEmail: [email protected]: www.we-the-people.inDrRama Shyam: 9320191300

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