Advocacy to ‘Be the Change’ (ABC) Maharashtra Tour


A tour in Maharashtra will be the stepping stone to bringing awareness of the law and judicial mechanisms. In the simplest terms it can be seen as a tool based on the power of information and awareness to bring about a change at the grass-roots level. It is the starting point towards beginning to exercise our rights, demanding implementation and challenging faulty enforcement. In essence, it is the common man’s vehicle for questioning the system and getting from it what is due to him.

The main focus of the tour will be to bring judicial as well as non-judicial reforms through public participation. Public participation includes discussing issues like delays in cases, pendency in cases, undignified treatment to common people in court premises, inadequate number of judges, inadequate allocation of funds for judiciary branch, delay in filling up vacancies in the courts, lack of commensurate infrastructure, misuse of the process of court with impunity, irresponsible filing of appeals by the government, prolix arguments, enormous procedural complexities in civil and criminal matters, prevention of vexatious litigation by government, accountability and transparency in the system, setting up of human rights courts and child right courts at the district level, filing public interest litigations, etc.

The problems faced by the people often are beyond the literal meaning of the law, and this can be understood only with direct interactions with the people. This is also the reason why we focus on non-litigating solutions to problems of the people as well.

Project Goals and Objectives

1. Increase the participation of the common people in accessing justice delivery system and to make the system people oriented.

  • To bring awareness among the general public to use law for social change
  • To increase and strengthen access to justice
  • To sensitize the stakeholders in the justice delivery system
  • To engage lawyers in legal aid work
  • To engage students to work with socio-legal perspective
  • Engaging media to reach out to masses

2. Advocacy through direct intervention in the court

  • To encourage common people to approach the court for rights
  • To identify issues of mass violations
  • To have dialogue with people/communities/groups whose rights have been violated
  • To collect and analyze data for filing Public Interest Litigation
  • To represent such communities/groups in court

3. Advocacy through non-litigating strategies

  • To understand the situation of various stakeholders when a human rights violation has occurred.
  • To empower these stakeholders to find their own ways to solve the problems they face.




Kasturba Yoga and Naturopathy College

This college is affiliated with the Kasturba Gandhi Yoga and Nisargaupachar University in Delhi. Since 2005, we have been conducting classes in Yoga and Naturopathy. This college is a medicine-free society. Therefore, we believe in Naturopathy and inexpensive self-healing methods to be the way for anyone to live a healthy life. At our college, we have visiting lecturers and we conduct weekend classes. The students come from all around Maharashtra, appearing for courses conducted by our university. Due to our urgent need for funding, we conduct only a small part-time course in Naturopathy for seven to ten students at the moment. Our further plans need to be placed on hold due to current monetary shortcomings of our organizations. However, we are in the planning process of establishing a cadre of socio-medicos, who will travel to remote areas to educate the local people about inexpensive and natural ways of healing. The infrastructure of health services is widely insufficient, and hospitals and doctors are often hours away from the rural villages. With more advanced financial support, we would also be able to buy an ambulance vehicle which could go to the poor areas and provide direct medical help.

We also organize camps in schools, where there are subject experts who interact with our students

Karmaveer Bhaurao Patil Shikshan Samitee

This is an initiative to help children of farmers who committed suicide. Yavatmal district has the highest number of suicides in Maharashtra. Ultimately, the children suffer along with the adults. Without care and education their futures are bleak. If there is no one to give a helping hand then there is a very high possibility of them getting caught in the vicious circle of borrowing money and poverty. The initiative has been set up to raise money for the education of those innocent children who have had to drop out of school due to their family’s financial misery. As part of this initiative, Sahyog is further trying to keep a long term follow-up on how the child is faring, not only in school but in his or her overall development. This process is conducted with different local volunteers and organizations. To overcome the trauma of their parents’ death, Sahyog is organizing camps for the children who are supported through this scheme. The camps are to counsel the students who are currently suffering from the loss of their relative, to have people interacting with them on various subjects so as to motivate them, boost their courage and build up their confidence. Surprise visits are also paid to the village in which these children are staying and studying. Our efforts will be to energize them to move forward in life.
[How to support]

Karmaveer Bhaurao Patil Dattak Palak Yojana

This is an initiative to ensure the education of children from very low income backgrounds. In this scheme, which we established in 2000, we appeal to donors to adopt one child by paying funds as fixed deposits to maintain the education of the children from poor families. Through this scheme we support the students from 1st standard to 10th standard. At present, the school fees, books, texts, uniform and medical aid of approximately 230 students per year are taken care of.

While selecting students, we take into consideration their family background (the social and economic conditions, the family income and the number of dependents in the family), the desire of the student to pursue education, his/her performance, etc. At present, there are 6 people who have supported the students of our school through this scheme. The money is then deposited into a bank account, and the students’ welfare is taken care of from the interest.
[How to support]


The Sahyog Trust has been working in the field of Education since 1986, running two schools and several education programs. We at Sahyog believe that education is not about just attending classes and acquiring degrees. It is more about building perspectives, skills and social values. Gender equity, concern for the poor and needy, solidarity with the people’s movements, promotion of social justice, provision of quality information on health issues and the values of non-violence, is what we try to impart to the students of our school. We promote the action for self-reliance, hope and awareness for change.

Sahyog believes that if we can develop the abilities of understanding in children, we can transform their lives! For this purpose the schools run by Sahyog are using various innovative, interactive and creative techniques.

There are two schools, a pre-primary and a primary school. These schools are in Waghapur area of Yavatmal District. Yavatmal is declared as a Tribal District. The students who attend these schools are from families which are low-income and socially backward. Therefore, we try to support their intellectual as well as personal development in the best way. There is always an attempt made at introducing various methods of informal education along with the formal education.

Our schools are run for students who cannot afford to spend too much on education or for those classes in society where the percentage of educated people is low. As a part of our initiative, we started the following schemes: Karmaveer Bhaurao Patil Dattak Palak Yojana and Karmaveer Bhaurao Patil Shikshan Samitee.

Further, Sahyog started Kasturba Yoga and Nisargaupachar Mahavidyalay. It is affiliated to the Kasturba Gandhi Yoga Nisargaupachar University at New Delhi. There are students from all over Maharashtra who appear for Naturopathy exams from this centre. This venture was started to spread the knowledge and science of Yoga and Naturopathy so that people who cannot afford health care are able to take care of themselves by using the science of Naturopathy.

Sane Guruji Balak Mandir and Mahavir Primary School

Pre-primary & primary schools in Waghapur/Yavatmal District

The children of our schools are mostly from the slums closeby. After finishing the pre-primary step they continue to study in the Mahavir Primary School. We have adopted innovative ways of teaching so as not to make education a burden for the children. We encourage them to participate in various activities thus inculcating in them values that eventually help them to become good human beings.

We conduct teacher-parent meetings where we not only talk of the progress of the children but we also try to organize sessions which will enlighten them on the values and principles of the school.

Further, we are organizing interactions between students and eminent personalities working on various issues like health, environment, snake protection, Khadi (hand-spun clothing), de-addiction, pollution free festivals, no-Crackers movement, gram swarajya, citizens rights and duties, swadeshi, etc.

The pupils of the school run by Sahyog were once known as dropouts and failures. But shaping their minds and inculcating a sense of self-respect and confidence in the so-called dropouts was the challenge taken up by Sahyog. Today many students who passed out from our schools are confidently leading their lives. They are respected in the society as good human beings.


HIV Legal Guidance Centre – Strategies

Legal Aid and Guidance for the HIV-affected to claim their rights

Human Rights and Law Defenders advocate for legal and policy protections for persons affected by HIV/AIDS or who have a high risk of infection. For this purpose, they provide legal aid to the affected and actively fight for protecting legal reforms at their Legal Aid and Guidance Centre in Pune. One of their work projects for example, is the constant campaigning for a repeal of an antiquated sodomy law that contributes to police abuse of HIV/AIDS homosexual educators.

  • Further, the Centre works for the protection of the rights of women in prostitution. They visit red light districts to educate them about their rights and empower them to demand life saving safe sex of clients. In case of rights violations they will teach them how to file suits and claim their rights.Moreover, they are working for AIDS-affected children in different ways: on one hand, they are promoting the rights of a child to ensure protection of girls against the widely spread sexual abuse; on the other hand, they are fighting for the utilization of avenues of legal recourse for children without relatives to turn to.

  • Education about HIV/AIDS and the rights of affected people within the societyMany investments in HIV/AIDS programs and policies are doomed to fail, if the society is still unaware of the issue of HIV and their ignorance towards the disease and the affected is contributing to the stigmatisation of them. Despite policies, the disease will further spread. To efficiently fight HIV, HRLD regards the education of the society about AIDS and the application of a human rights focus when dealing with this issue are regarded as crucial.
    Therefore, the Sahyog Trust regularly conducts campaigns for more legal awareness and is engaged in educating the affected about their rights, as well as training the public to respect those rights just as of any other person. Campaigns will be set up in public places, or locations where there are high risks of infection, such as prisons or the red lights districts. To reach broader masses, HRLD is teaching other educators about HIV so they again can teach people within their reach and raise a supporting awareness about the affected people.

  • ResearchTo analyse the state of knowledge and meet the needs and lacks within the society, the legal HIV-Centre has started the HIV/AIDS Legal Support Initiative (HALSI) (an initiative of Sahyog Trust). They conducted a survey with a simple questionnaire of 15 questions among lawyers, where they got some unflattering and glaring answers.
    [read the detailed report of survey]

    In general the results showed that young advocates in the age group of 25-30 were more open in answering the questions and also finding out the answers when they did not know one. In contrast, the more established lawyers did not feel the need to answer the questions with the excuse that they were simply not interested. This shows the sensitivity or rather the lack of it of some people from the law fraternity. One observation that was generally made during the survey was that female advocates of all age groups were more willing to answer and get to know about the issue. 95% of the lawyers in the male and female category did not know what HIV/AIDS stood for. The small number of people who knew it, knew only what either HIV or AIDS stood for.

    Besides knowing about the problem of missing knowledge of the society on HIV, documenting human rights abuses related to disease is essential in combating the epidemic. HRLD is therefore continuously studying the situation of HIV-affected living in India. This work builds naturally on Human Rights and Law Defenders’ large body of research on discrimination, women’s and children’s rights, rights of prisoners, and persecution of marginalized groups.


Report of survey with lawyers of Maharashtra on HIV and Law

-Adv. Rama Sarode

HIV/AIDS Legal Support Initiative (HALSI), an initiative of Sahyog Trust did a survey with a simple questionnaire of 15 questions among the lawyers. Through the survey we got some unflattering and glaring answers. We also realized that young advocates in the age group of 25-30 were more open in answering the questions and also finding out the answers when they did not know one. But the more established lawyers did not feel the need to answer the questions with an excuse that they were simply not interested. This shows the sensitivity or rather the lack of it of some people from the law fraternity. One observation that was generally made during the survey was that female advocates of all age groups were mare willing to answer and know the issue 95% of the lawyer in the male and female category did not know what HIV/AIDS stood for. The small number of people, who knew, either knew only HIV stood for or AIDS.

In Pune 36% female lawyers answered that People Living with HIV/AIDS(PLWHA) did not have legal rights whereas 12% male lawyers thought the same and 8% male lawyers did not know about the rights of PLWHA. In Nagpur 17.5% male lawyers said that they did not have rights while 20% female lawyers said they were not aware if PLWHA have legal rights.

It is all the more surprising to hear 12.5% of male advocates of Nagpur to say that HIV is transmitted through mosquitoes. 11% male advocates of Yavatmal and 8% female advocates of Pune said that HIV is transmitted by using the same bathroom. While most of them said that HIV cannot be transmitted by touching; 6% male advocates from Pune, 23% male advocates from Yavatmal and 20% male advocates from Akola said that HIV can be transmitted by touching a PLWHA. These statistics drive home the point that there needs to be awareness on basics like how HIV is not transmitted.

11%,10%,6% and 4% male advocates from Ahmednagar, Akola, Yavatmal and Pune respectively said that PLWHA can be removed from employment on the grounds that he/she is affected with HIV. Here it came to light that female advocates are better informed as only 4% and 7% female advocates from Pune and Yavatmal respectively said that PLWHA can be removed with employment.

What came as an atrocious answer was when 30%,42%,25% and 24% of male advocates from, Yavatmal, Nagpur and Pune respectively said that there is no discrimination faced by the PLWHAS,45% ,36% and 28% female advocates from Akola, Yavatmal and Pune respectively said that there is no discrimination faced by PLWHA.

36% male advocates of Pune that there is a special law passes in India to protect the rights of the PLWHA. This answer came as a surprise because it threw light on the ignorance of lawyers on the issue. Once again the female advocates were better informed than their male counterparts.

There were mixed feelings from advocates across when they were asked if PLWHA have a right to marry.40% male and female advocates from Akola and Pune respectively said that they do not have a right to marry. Most of them said that though PLWHA have a legal right to marry they should not marry. It is not ethical on their part to marry whether they have disclosed their HIV status or not.

Most of the lawyers said if a person does not disclose his/her HIV status before marriage. the spouse can file for divorce.But 29% female advocates from Yawatmal and 35% male advocates from Nagpur said that divorce cannot be got on the ground that HIV status was not disclosed to the other party.

When asked if there are special hospitals for PLWHA more than 50% of the advocates said there are special hospitals. Some of them did not know and some others said that we are not from the medical background and so we will not be able to answer.

On an average 85% advocates said that children of PLWHA can go to the same schools as other children.. But surprisingly 15%, 14%, 11% and 10% male advocates from Nagpur, Pune, yavatmal and Akola repectively said that they cannot go to the same schools. This shows the need to work even with the literates to demystify the myths that are associated with the transmission of the epidemic.

More than 90% of them said PLWHA can use the public taps and wells there 25% and 12% male advocates from Yavatmal and Pune who said that they should not be allowed to use water from the public tap or well.

We were stunned to know that 33% and 30% male advocates from Ahmednagar and Akola respectively think that PLWHA should stay seperataly from the mainstream society so as to stop the spread of the epidemic. 20% and 16%of male advocates from Yavatmal and Pune. Respectively were of the same opinion. The female advocates came out strongly opposing the idea of keeping PLWHA separately from the mainstream society as unnecessary with and exception of 7% from Yavatmal, 4% from Akola and 2% from Pune who said that they must live separately.

All in all from the findings in the survey there is a crying need felt to work with different fraternities on the issue of HIV/AIDS and law specially with the lawyers as they are supposed to be well informed on the legal rights of masses. HALSI is probably the only initiative working with various networks of positive people across Maharashtra to impart the information of HIV and law in the local language and it wishes to start working with the lawyers across Maharashtra to sensitize them in understanding and handling the cases of PLWHA.

HALSI does not claim the survey to be a perfect one as it was an attempt to understand and assess the need to work in the law fraternity. HALSI regrets that it has to limit its reach at times due to lack of funds to support the cause.

There is a need to get to the root of the issue. So just talking about distributing condoms will not help in preventing HIV transmission. We need to talk about sexuality, gender equality. Law and judiciary is one of the means to reach the end of overcoming the problem of discrimination and stigmatization of the PLWHA. There needs to be communication between people to solve any social problem as the people of the society have to come together to curb the problem of the society.

Our team who did the survey:
Adv. Rama Sarode, Adv. Asim Sarode, Rasika Kulkarni, Dr. Smita Singalkar, Dr. Ravindra Bhusari, Maya Dhobale, Adv. Rahul Sarode, Mallika, Nidhi, Ashok Gore, Adv. Rajendra Anubhule, Anuja Bulankar, Sanjay Jadhav, Adv. Umesh Bhagwat


HIV Legal Guidance Center

Since 2004, Sahyog has been engaged in fighting for the rights of the many STOP AIDSHIV-affected people in India. As there is still a strong social stigma, our help is most needed. We also noticed a wide lack of knowledge on this subject within the society.

Therefore, Sahyog has set up a Legal Guidance Centre for people affected with HIV/AIDS. This centre was started with the vision to help people affected with this epidemic. We realized that these people are highly vulnerable and are easy victims, because the awareness level of people about their rights is very low and the social stigma attached to them is strong. The work towards the fulfillment of the rights of the affected, to live their lives in dignity and equity to any other society member, often involves many legal issues.


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Working area: AIDS

Since the early 1980s, HIV/AIDS has claimed 22 million lives and infected over 60 million persons, and it will kill millions more before it is controlled. Its destruction is fueled by a wide range of human rights violations, including sexual violence and coercion faced by women and girls, stigmatization of sexually active homosexuals, abuses against sex workers and injecting drug users, and violations of the Right to Information on HIV transmission especially for young people.

In prisons, HIV spreads with frightening efficiency due to sexual violence, lack of access to condoms, lack of harm reduction measures for drug users, and lack of information. Human rights violations only add to the stigmatization of persons at highest risk of infection and thus marginalize and drive underground those who need information, preventive services, and treatment most desperately. Rights abuses fuel AIDS, because abuses follow infection!

Persons living with the disease are subject to stigmatization and discrimination in the society, including in their workplace and in access to government services. Examples:

  • Women, whose husbands have died of AIDS, are regularly rejected by their own and their husband’s families and their property is frequently taken from them.
  • Thousands of children who have lost their parents due to AIDS or whose parents are living with the disease have lost their inheritance rights, need to take up hazardous labor, including prostitution, and have sometimes been forced to live on the streets where they are subject to police violence and other abuses.
  • Homosexuals who are engaged in HIV education among other homosexuals often get harassed by the police for not hiding their sexual orientation and their open activities to spread awareness of HIV. The police will arbitrary accuse them of other made-up issues to discriminate them.


HRLD has developed effective and innovative solutions to achieve its aims and has been building specialized initiatives around issues. Recognizing the potential of effective partnerships, HRLD works closely with other human rights and development organizations. HRLD units in various states use the following strategies:

  • Legal Aid and Guidance for the HIV-affected to claim their rights
    [read more]
  • Education about HIV/AIDS and the rights of affected people within the society
    [read more]
  • Research
    [read more]


Human Rights and Law Defenders (HRLD)

In 2002 the legal wing of the Sahyog Trust, ‘Human Rights and Law Defenders’ (HRLD), was established to intensify the work on issues related to Human Rights. HRLD has been set up in Pune as an independent unit and intervenes legally when there is a human rights violation.


HRLD defends human rights by opposing violations, strengthening enforcement mechanisms, sensitizing the public, and campaigning for constitutional and legal reforms. Since its initiation, it is the mission of HRLD to fight a broad battle against gross Human Rights violations.

HRLD works in following areas:

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Areas of work

  • Legal aid to under trial prisoners
  • Womens rights
  • Children rights
  • Rights of the disabled
  • Dalit Rights
  • HIV/AIDS and Law
  • Environmental Law especially “Forum Against Noise Pollution”


HRLD has developed effective and innovative solutions to achieve its aims and has been building specialized initiatives around issues. Recognizing the potential of effective partnerships, HRLD works closely with other human rights and development organizations. HRLD uses the following strategies:


  • Legal Aid: Providing access to justice for the vulnerable through:
    • Legal intervention and representation for individuals, as in filing suits for victims and defending their cases in front of the court (mostly pro-bono)
    • Filing complaints to the various commissions set up for better protection of human rights like the National Human Rights Commission, the State Human Rights Commission, the National Commission for Women, etc.
  • Empowerment of the peer group through:
    • The creation of law literacy among potential or actual victims of rights violations and their stakeholders: via campaigns and workshops
    • The provision of legal consultations and guidance: in direct dialogue, via phone or different forms of media advocacy
  • Conducting and Raising Legal Awareness by:
    • Specific trainings for the potential/actual rights violators (police staff, personnel of other official institutions) or persons whose jobs are dealing with rights violations (e.g. protection officers, lawyers, doctors)
    • Public campaigning to promote Human Rights education in the civil society and official institutions: in the form of hearings/audits, media advocacy, demonstrations etc.
  • Capacity Building and Expending the Access to Justice by:
    • Building up a network of local NGOs that are dealing with various rights-linked issues and lawyers who are willing to provide a part of their services pro-bono (to provide help for people outside Pune)
    • Interacting with the media and sensitizing them about human rights violations
    • By educating and raising up an own cadre of social lawyers
  • Promoting legislative changes by:
    • Reviewing existing laws that pose threat to respecting human rights.
    • Taking suo moto action and filing Public Interest Litigations (PIL’s) when there are rights violations that concern public interest
    • Campaigning for constitutional and legal reforms and participating in drafts and re-designing of legislations
  • Research and Documentation:
    Documenting case studies and Human Rights-related developments, as well as paper clipping of concerned issues.