Along with rescues and restoration efforts for human trafficking victims, Justice Ventures International (JVI) also pursues justice for the urban poor. Approximately 1 billion people worldwide live in slums, without access to decent housing, electricity, sanitation, work or education. In India alone, more than 65 million people live in slums according to the Indian Census. JVI, along with a local partner Human RIghts Law Network (HRLN) helped a Mumbai family successfully fight corruption that would have unlawfully evicted their entire family from their low income apartment.
Vani Meghvan*, worked as a sweeper with the Mumbai railways and was the only earning member of her family. She earned about Rs. 15000 [US$ 234] a month to support six other family members. In 2001, Vani and her husband used their entire savings to put a 20% down payment on a 225 sq.ft apartment (costing Rs 569,380/US$ 8,909) under a Maharashtra Housing Area Development Authority (MHADA) program that builds and sells houses to middle and low income groups. They agreed to pay the remaining as installments.
Due to corruption in the MHADA office, it took her four years to get the required paperwork processed to secure the required loan. Shortly thereafter, there was a flood which resulted in the paperwork being irretrievably lost. Moreover, each time she tried to pay the installments, the MHADA officers would reject the payment. This continued until 2010 when she received a notice ordering eviction from her home if she did not pay the remaining balance which, with interest had appreciated to Rs. 1,261,243 [$19,735]. Desperate for help, Vani turned to HRLN and JVI, who agreed to take her case.
Finally, after five years of litigation in April 2015, the High Court of Bombay recognized that Vani had been treated unfairly by the MHADA and waived off the interest and reduced the total amount to be repaid by Vani to Rs. 6,76,847.5[$ 10,591] instead of Rs. 1,261,243 [$19,735].
“JVI gave me the confidence and strength to fight for my fundamental rights. Personal representation was assured from JVI through counseling and awareness about the minute details of the court procedures”, said Vani after hearing the verdict.
Another family member said,“I was not aware of my rights. This whole experience taught me ….how to approach the government authorities.”
Today, Vani and her household have a home because of JVI and HRLN’s efforts. She has no more fear of eviction and can live securely knowing her rights. Together with partners like the HRLN, JVI provides legal support to the urban poor in the pursuit of justice, with hope of more outcomes like this one.