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Student Speaks Out Against Bar Council’s Decision To Derecognise Top Mumbai Law Colleges

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In its maiden endeavour of conducting a law entrance examination with the objective of recruiting the brightest students, the state of Maharashtra conducted a Common Entrance Test (CET) as opposed to the earlier years wherein board marks were taken into consideration for admitting students into the five year and three year law course; the state found this novel step to being fraught with controversy and uncertainty.

On one hand, whilst the constitutional validity of the CET was challenged in itself, the Bar Council of India (BCI) dropped another bomb. Subsequent to the CET results being declared and ranks allotted, the Bar Council of India sort to withhold the inclusion of the top Mumbai law schools in the eligibility list and barred them from accepting applications.

Some of these colleges comprise Government Law College, Mumbai (GLC), G.J. Advani Law College, Bandra; Kishinchand Chellaram Law College, Churchgate; and Jitendra Chauhan College of Law, Vile Parle. The Bar Council of India alleged that the colleges did not have adequate infrastructure and did not meet the required student teacher ratio.

The BCI’s allegations have been deemed to be fairly vague and unjustified. This decision has received major backlash from city colleges as well. As a student of Government Law College, Mumbai (GLC), I can affirm that the physical infrastructural requirements of the colleges are more than satisfactory and the alleged skewed student-teacher ratio has never affected the regularity of classes or the academic performance of students. The BCI student teacher requirement ratio of 1:40 released only in 2014 is in fact not commonplace in most law institutions in the country.

Moreover, these colleges are state run colleges which depend upon sanctioning of posts by the government and such decisions are not directly within their autonomous authority. This decision of the BCI has resulted in an extreme and inordinate delay in the admission process in the state of Maharashtra.

Law aspirants are highly disappointed and furious with the said decision. Yash Shiralkar, a student presently enrolled in St. Xavier’s college, Mumbai, who took the exam and ranked second in Maharashtra CET says, “I have been pretty restless for the past few months now and this has gravely affected my academic performance at St. Xavier’s college, which has already begun and has had its unit tests since I’ve been anticipating admission into GLC. The whole process has been extremely disappointing. I only intend to take admission into a reputable institution like GLC. If GLC is barred, top ranking students like me are not interested in enrolling in other law institutions.”

Another such aspirant who appeared for the CET stated – “It’s really confusing, we have no idea what to do. They cannot possibly put so many careers at stake. The CET schedule has also been subject to constant change. This has been nothing but thoroughly depressing especially for students like me who are solely relying on CET allotments and not seeking backup.”

BCI has failed to realise the wide scale repercussions of its decision. Firstly, the career of thousands of students is at stake which in itself cannot be considered to be something expendable since these colleges together comprise over a thousand seats. Secondly, law aspirants have resorted to seeking admissions in other institutions in the state as backup and most of these institutions are soon to hold mid-terms.

The Bar Council of India, while may have the intention of enhancing legal education standards, imposing such norms at this critical stage seems dubious and blatantly unfair. This decision has left law aspirants in nothing but agonising wait and despair.

It is a well-known fact that the aforementioned colleges which have been subject to such dire scrutiny are rather in a much better condition than most other colleges in remote parts of the city. The latter in fact would be incapable of meeting BCI requirements.

Furthermore, Government Law College still remains the most sought after college in the city and despite BCI’s allegations, the college has produced greatly equipped lawyers even in the recent past. Ironically, the Bar Council of India website reads“In existence since 1855, the Government Law College (GLC), Mumbai is unarguable giant in Indian legal education. The college has the honour of being the alma mater of a host of people who would leave an undeniable mark in evolution of the nation. The college is known for an active student life and college teams have a consistently exemplary record in many sports.”

Keeping aside the wrangle between the law colleges, Bar Council of India and the State of Maharashtra, the primary consideration has to be accorded to the aspiring students who worked extremely hard and wrote the test with the intention of getting into a well-acclaimed law school. The BCI should’ve ideally raised whichever concerns it had prior to the admission process and not in the very midst of it. The aspirants are in deep angst and the top priority of the Bar Council and the state of Maharashtra should be rendering expeditious admission to students in the institutions. The colleges will have the option of seeking judicial remedy but this will only result in additional delay and will compound the worries of students.

It is in the best interest of thousands of students that the Bar Council of India should nod approval to these colleges to admit students and start their program. The BCI ought to realise at the earliest that this quarrel is affecting several innocent students for no fault of their own.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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