"If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich." - John F. Kennedy
What is the first image that comes to your mind when you hear the term Senior Advocate of the Supreme Court? Let me paint a picture for you - An elderly man with a big belly dressed in a zed black coat walking out a luxurious car surrounded by numerous bodyguards and junior lawyers. But there are only a few for whom the welfare of the society seems more important than to maintain an upscale status symbol. Among those rare individuals is Colin Gonsalves, a dedicated Senior Advocate of the Supreme Court of India who is also the founder of Human Rights Law Network. Colin Gonsalves is a man with a pure soul and a big heart who has dedicated his whole life to the betterment of the poor and deprived.
We live in a world where everyone wishes to change the world, but nobody wants to make their hands dirty in filth to remove the so-called social issues arising in the society. Mr. Colin, on the other hand, not only believed but also acted towards that actually matters to the whole community.
"You must not lose faith in humanity. Humanity is an ocean; if a few drops of the ocean are dirty, the ocean does not become dirty". - Mahatma Gandhi
Born and brought up in Mumbai, Mr. Colin completed his Civil Engineering from IIT Bombay and began working. It was then he came across various drawbacks of the Indian society, so he switched lanes to step foot in the lawyers' community and started practicing law at the University of Mumbai.
A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, and Mr. Colin took his very first step in the year 1979 with a case to support 5,000 workers who locked out of their jobs. At that time, Mr. Colin was just a law school student, but his will to help those poor workers could not keep him away from the case. He ensured the workers that he would fight tooth and nail to get justice for them. Mr. Colin with the help of few other colleagues brought down the defendants on their knees and delivered as promised.
From that moment Mr. Colin took an oath that he will dedicate all his resources and knowledge in eradicating social glitches that are crippling the society. Colin Gonsalves completed his LLB in 1983 and started on his journey towards the impossible. Initially, he began as a lone warrior fighting for the suffering side and doing what he can probably do. Although, he tried his best but could not win every case, as the road to success runs uphill and he just learned to walk.
"Nobody travels on the road to success without a puncture or two." - Navjot Singh Sidhu
Preparation for a Better Tomorrow
As the time passed, he became experienced and proficient by learning all the tricks and techniques as a lawyer. After a span of 6 years, Mr. Collin was ready to dive into deep waters and thus, he began to assemble a team of dependable and experienced lawyers, activists and paralegals who can join his crusade. In 1989, Mr. Colin successfully established the Human Rights Law Network (HRLN) which aims at providing legal support to the vulnerable and disadvantaged sections of Indian society. To avoid biasing Mr. Colin kept it as a non-profit non-governmental organization and he became the leader of this organization.
There were 5 prime motives for this organization and that was to work for:
- The Poor: Availability of ample amount of quality food grains at a subsidized rate, to the below-poverty-line, destitute, and marginalized.
- Children: Ensure the proper operation of Child Development Centers and the provision of mid-day meals to children between 0-6 years.
- Women: Procurement of financial help for every poor pregnant woman. Ensure women security.
- The Elderly and Disabled: Introducing all elderly and disabled people below the poverty line into the cash assistance programme.
- Dalits/ Adivasi: Preference given to Dalits, scheduled castes and scheduled tribes.
Finally Starting To Make a Difference
After establishing all the guidelines and protocols, Mr. Colin and his team began working on the sections of the society. Since then they have acted as a shield to protect the human rights of about 250 million Indians.
In the year 2005, Mr. Colin argued as a defendant in a case of the Occupational Health and Safety Association versus the Union of India. Due to his marvelous efforts, the Supreme Court delivered a judgment in his favor declaring the right to health and medical care, while in service or post-retirement as a fundamental right of a worker.
Mr. Gonsalves became a savior for the deaf people in 2009. He came out with flying colors in a case of the National Association of the Deaf vs. Union of India when the Delhi High Court opened the doors for deaf people to get a driving license if they pass the driving tests. This was one of the cases that turned the tables when for the first time in India, the deaf society was getting equal rights and all thanks to the efforts of Mr. Colin who made it is possible.
Mr. Colin Gonsalves is currently representing Rohingya Refugees in Jammu and is aiming to prevent their deportation back to Myanmar where they might face persecution.
A good beginning makes a good ending as of today, Mr. Colin's HRLN is considered India's leading public interest law group and has a nationwide network spread across 26 states and Union Territories including more than 200 lawyers, paralegals, and social activists all united for a noble cause.
"We are all here on earth to help others; what on earth the others are here for I don't know." - W. H. Auden
Mr. Colin Gonsalves is a living proof that humanity is still alive in this world and all you need is to come forward to let it thrive.