24Nov2015

New Home, New Voice

From a small tent to a concrete home, the journey of unassuming Hasan Basari to secure a home for her family was full of challenges. Hasan used the power of knowledge to apply for a Rs. 90,100 grant that she was entitled to under the Priyadarshini Awas Yojana (PAY housing program) to build a home. But this was only the beginning of her effort.

Hasan, her husband, and their four children were living in Kherla Khurd village in a small tent made up mostly of metal scraps, rags, and sticks. As their household income was below the poverty line (BPL), Hasan was entitled to a PAY grant to build a home for her family. She struggled unsuccessfully to secure the grant for months. She submitted her PAY application to the sarpanch several times, but each time he refused to sign the application. When Hasan and her husband spoke up about the refusal, they were beaten and threatened with further violence unless Hasan stopped pressing the issue.

When Hasan heard about a legal literacy camp being held in village Doha in December 2014, she and her friend Amina took an auto rickshaw 28 kilometers to attend the camp. Hasan was heartened to find that the chief judicial magistrate (CJM) and additional deputy commissioner (ADC) were present at the camp to address villagers’ concerns. She was energized by meeting the CJM, who encouraged her to submit her PAY application by mail and follow up. She complained to the ADC as well about her inability to submit a PAY application through the village sarpanch. Following advice she received at the camp, Hasan mailed her application by post and also filed a formal inquiry with the ADC. In addition, she learned about a new grievance redressal mechanism in Haryana, the Chief Minister’s Window (CM’s Window). She traveled to the district headquarters to submit an inquiry there.

A few months later, Hasan and her husband received their PAY grant and began construction of their home. Hasan’s neighbors were impressed and encouraged by her perseverance and eventual success in finally getting a new home.

The results of Hasan’s efforts have inspired fellow citizens of Kherla Khurd village to file inquiries regarding their entitlements—especially by going to the CM’s Window. Recently, five widowed women went there to inquire about status of their pensions, which they had not yet received. The women learned that their pension funds had been disbursed. Hence, they were able to demand and force the sarpanch to locate and pay them their pensions. Hasan has thus emerged as an effective new voice in her village on governance issues, in addition to securing a new home for her family.

(By Aditya Pai, Harvard Law School, Sehgal Foundation intern, 2015)