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Homeless maid takes to Facebook to get a house in Mumbai

Veena Shirke has been regularly updating her status on the social networking site to draw attention to her plight as she camps outside an SRA building in Khar (W), demanding her share in dead husband’s property

Facebook isn’t just a platform for selfies, memes, and ‘friends’ you haven’t met in years. Take Veena Naresh Shirke, a housemaid who has become an unlikely member of the social media network. The 38-year-old has taken to the website and created her own profile in order to drum up some support in her attempts to wrest property from relatives who she claims took it from her.

This is the picture Veena has put up on her Facebook page, showing her surrounded by utensils, suitcases and a stool
This is the picture Veena has put up on her Facebook page, showing her surrounded by utensils, suitcases and a stool

In the past 14 days, Veena has been posting a slew of updates about her fight for a 200-sq-ft house in a chawl at Khar (West). Her page shows her squatting in an open plot, surrounded by her utensils, suitcases and a stool. The dispute over the apartment started after the death of her husband.

Veena, who works in several buildings and residential complexes as a maid, said, “In houses where I work, I often used to hear the children talk of Facebook. This was also mentioned on television serials that I watched. So I was keen on opening an account, and did so six months ago.”

As a gesture of protest, Veena has been camping out in the open, just outside the redeveloped chawl where she once had a home
As a gesture of protest, Veena has been camping out in the open, just outside the redeveloped chawl where she once had a home

Veena’s brother helped her create the account. After the death of her husband, she was embroiled in a property dispute over a house that she claims he inherited from his mother. It was then that she decided to use Facebook to garner some support. Yesterday, Veena’s timeline showed updates posted for 13 consecutive days. So far, her updates have only attracted ‘likes’ from her neighbours, relatives and friends.

After her marriage in 2006, Veena started living with her husband in his chawl, along with other members of his family, including her brother-in- law, Buddheshwar Shirke, his wife and their daughter. In 2007, the entire chawl was taken over by Lok Group for redevelopment. The entire joint family was asked to move. While Buddheshwar and his family moved to another apartment, Veena and her husband Naresh rented out a room in a society at Khar Danda.

Veena’s Facebook page shows her living in an open plot, surrounded by her utensils, suitcases and a stool. The dispute over the apartment started after the death of her husband
Veena’s Facebook page shows her living in an open plot, surrounded by her utensils, suitcases and a stool. The dispute over the apartment started after the death of her husband

Veena and Naresh would receive a cheque of around Rs 1 lakh annually from Lok Group, in lieu of the land they had taken from them. The owner of their rented accommodation, however, soon decided to sell the plot, and the couple was rendered homeless yet again. With no other option left, Veena and Naresh moved into her father’s house.

Family dispute
In February 2013, Naresh passed away. It was then that she decided to stake her claim to his familial property. “I was left homeless after my house was demolished for redevelopment and the temporary flat where I used to stay with my late husband was sold off.

As I was not receiving help from anywhere, I decided to share my plight with pictures on my Facebook account,” added Veena. She first turned to Lok Group, asking them to give her a room in the society built by them where the chawl earlier stood, under the Slum Rehabilitation Authority (SRA) scheme.

“When I went to the builder’s office to submit the legal documents of the house in the chawl, a person there asked to see the agreement which he claimed had been handed over to my husband before his death. I have no clue about this.

My brother-in-law claims that the property belongs to my mother-in-law Vijayabai Shirke, and so there would be equal distribution of the wealth. However, I have an affidavit signed by my mother-in-law stating that the legal heir would be Naresh Shirke, my husband,” said Veena.

Brother-in-law Buddhesh-war, however, says that he or his family members are not denying her a share of the property. “Naresh was our youngest brother and we will definitely give his part of the property to her. This piece of land belonged to our mother Vijayabai Shirke, and all her sons are the legal heirs of the property. I don’t know what affidavit she is talking about and as far as I believe, it is a fake one,” said Buddheshwar.

However, Veena’s brother said that his sister is being denied her rights. “I am just concerned about her future. Who will be responsible if anything happens to my sister, who has no home of her own? Where should she go?” asked a worried Umesh Santaram.

Builder speaks
Suhas Kshirsagar, spokesperson for Lok Group of builders, “It is a family dispute, so we are no one to come in between. Our job is to follow the laws. Why would we have any issues giving her a house otherwise? We are doing our duty dedicatedly by giving her a monthly cheque of Rs 10,000. Just that the guidelines under SRA scheme don’t allow us to give her a house without the succession certificate.”

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1 Comments

  • Sunil20-Jan-2014

    This is very unfortunate situation. I am sure there are many such people who lost their shelter due to greed or some family dispute. The battle becomes more difficult once these women lose their husbands. There are many NGOs who has the capacity and power to undertake her case. We are proud of her courage to fight and I am sure she will come out as a winner. God bless her.

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