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Legal Literacy TV: An Uncommon Empowerment Tool

What originated as an experiment in India’s Andhra Pradesh region has grown into an effective tool for promoting legal literacy and empowerment.  Bhoomi Kosam, India’s first TV program on land entitlements, comprises an audience of 60,000 viewers and has already aired 58 episodes since 2011.  Since its launch in January 2011, the show has expanded to 45-minute episodes designed to inform citizens on land rights and other legal issues.

In India, nearly 17 million rural families across the country are either landless or have insecure land titles. In the Andhra Pradesh region, 6 million cases of land disputes have occurred in past years.  Bhoomi Kosam– literally “for the land”– therefore fills a particular need for greater awareness and empowerment at the individual and community levels.  By informing citizens of their rights and demystifying complicated laws and legal codes, the show is attempting to significantly reduce the obstacles many citizens face in accessing justice and seeking redress through state and local institutions.

The show’s success and innovation stem from its participatory and instructional format. Each episode is divided into four sections: the first section addresses a generic land issue with expert commentary, compiled by Landesa India and HMTV. Land experts weigh in on the particular case, and identify potential solutions and strategies to address the issue.  During the second segment, viewers are prompted to call in with their own questions. Starting in August 2011, the show added three new segments to explain revenue terminologies and records to highlight best practices and solutions to typical land grievances.  According to Parvinder Singh (Rural Development Institute), “the primary impact of the program has been of providing information and through callers of clearing doubts. Making people aware of their land rights in their language and in a style that is accessible was the unique selling point of Bhoomi Kosam.”

Educating citizens about land and legal rights had been on the agenda of the government; in 2003, the state launched a grassroots paralegal program to assist villages and citizens in identifying land related issues, address them appropriately through legal and institutional recourse with the state revenue department.  Due to its success, episodes of Bhoomi Kosam are now being distributed to revenue officials, paralegals, and NGOs in Andhra Pradesh.  The show is being used in training sessions, particularly as a visual aid to complement existing lessons and modules in areas with high levels of illiteracy.

To learn more about Bhoomi Kosam and watch clips of episodes, please click here.

To read Parvinder Singh’s review of the show, please click here.

July 31, 2012 | Namati