In 2013 we launched a project with PAJHRA, an Adivasi empowerment organization which strives to advance the rights of Adivasis in Assam with a focus on Sonitpur, Golaghat and Kokrajhar Districts. Over the course of 2 year period we delivered 10 innovative capacity building programs which strengthened legal literacy of Pajhra staff covering issues such as international & domestic human rights law, fact-finding & documentation, use of grievance procedures, monitoring & enforcement strategies, and the role of media in advancing justice.
In August 2014, Nazdeek launched its Urban Legal Empowerment Project with a collective of 25 community members from two communities — Gole Market and Bhim Nagar — on advancing the maternal health rights of women living in slums. The Project focuses on the interlinked nature of right to safe motherhood with the right to housing, food, water, and sanitation. Over the course of one year, trainings were delivered on: introduction to rights & legal structure; fact-finding; documentation strategies; judicial and non-judicial grievance mechanisms; media; the law; and monitoring and enforcement of court orders and policies.
We supported the filing of more than 20 administrative complaints by community paralegals demanding improvements in the delivery of maternal health, nutrition, housing and sanitation benefits. Impacts include the renovation of a dilapidated community toilet complex, increased access to drinking water and food rations. For structural claims, we filed 2 strategic petitions at the Delhi High Court.
The first case Pooja & Ors. v. Delhi Urban Shelter Improvement Board & Ors, demands access to adequate sanitation and hygienic living conditions in Bhim Nagar, Nagloi, a slum in West Delhi. Specifically, the petition seeks 24-hour access to community toilet to address to high risk of gender-based violence for young girls and women, increases in the number of toilets and bathing facilities and community ownership over the delivery of sanitation and hygiene benefits. Despite Supreme Court decisions, international human rights law and numerous policies mandating access to proper sanitation and hygiene, rights to life, health and equality have been violated. While the case is still pending, to date the case has resulted in significant impacts for the 5000 community members such as 24-hour access to public toilets, complete renovation of the toilet with new latrines, bathing facilities and water connections, and upgradation of sewer lines.
The second case, Pooja v. Ministry of WCD, involved 5 poor pregnant and lactating women who were denied essential maternal health and nutrition benefits provided under nationwide safe motherhood interventions such as the Indira Gandhi Matritva Sahyog Yojana (IGMSY), Janani Suraksha Yojana (JSY) and the Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS) in violation of their constitutional and international human rights to health and equality. Based on extensive field investigations, we identified serious gaps in implementation with some women denied benefits under IGMSY for more than one year and the government stating that they didn't have the funds to pay. This contravened publicly available budgetary information showing that funds had been sanctioned to the State government. On December 2 the Delhi High Court agreed with our claims and ordered a range of reliefs, including immediate disbursement of maternity benefits to our eligible Petitioners. The strategic impact of the case is that it empowers other similarly situated women to demand that their payments and entitlements and results in better accountability from the government. The court order is attached Pooja_IGMSY_order.
In March 2014, Nazdeek partnered with the International Human Rights Clinic at the University of Chicago, to conduct comparative research on housing rights and policy in New Delhi, India, with a view toward identifying and addressing the major problems and challenges faced by slum-dwellers and homeless people in the city.
The right to adequate housing in New Delhi is a legal memorandum discussing the existing institutional agencies and housing policies in Delhi. The memorandum also provides an overview on the history of housing rights litigation in Delhi and concludes with observations raised by the research team following their field visit. Two other research papers were also prepared: Housing Policies in Comparative Perspective: Brazil, South Africa, United Kingdom and Chicago and The Right to Housing under International Law.
On the 9th October 2014, these documents were submitted to Justice A.P. Shah, Chairman of the Law Commission of India and Former Chief Justice of the Delhi High Court, to provide inputs for a stronger and more comprehensive housing rights framework in Delhi.