My name is Priscilla Knerr Jaen and I am a 2L serving as a student staff member with the Center for Global Justice.
For the first month of the semester, I worked on a project for Justice Ventures International (JVI) researching land rights in West Bengal and creating a compilation of land-related laws for the Bengali lawyers to refer to as they assist human trafficking victims with housing needs.
Prior to beginning my research, I did not even know where West Bengal was in India. As I researched their law, I had the opportunity to learn more about the country itself as well as the legal terms used to describe property-related issues.
For example, a mutation in West Bengal is similar to what Americans understand to occur when title changes (mutates) from one owner to another upon sale or transfer of property. A raiyat has a right to own land to cultivate it, while a bargadar (sharecropper) has no land rights but cultivates the land for the owner. A common scheme is what Americans know as a government initiative, and I found at least one such initiative working to ensure that Bengalis have housing called Nijoshree.
Currently, West Bengal is making progress in digitizing housing records and titles to ensure that property owners are secure in their ownership rights. The government is even beginning to plan for blockchain utilization to streamline and secure registration and sharing of documents, such as deeds.
The reality is that acquiring property can be a complex and confusing process, no matter where one lives or whether a person is trying to locate an apartment or completing the purchase of a home. I was honored to be able to support the amazing lawyers in West Bengal as they pave the way for the rescued to once again, or maybe for the first time, have a place to call home.
This post was written by a Center for Global Justice student staff member. The views expressed in this post do not necessarily reflect those of Regent University, Regent Law School, or the Center for Global Justice.