More than 2.57 lakh people evicted in India during the pandemic; 21 people evicted from their homes every hour, says latest report
-Press release by Housing and Land Rights Network (HLRN) dated 9th September, 2021
Housing and Land Rights Network (HLRN), today, released its new report on forced evictions in India. Titled, Forced Evictions in India in 2020: A Grave Human Rights Crisis During the Pandemic, this report presents comprehensive data and an analysis of forced evictions and demolitions of homes of the urban and rural poor across the country in 2020. It also presents an overview of incidents of eviction carried out by the state between 1 January and 31 July 2021, while proposing detailed recommendations to end this serious and rapidly-worsening crisis.
Key Findings from HLRN’s Report:
1) The Indian government—at both the union and state levels—continued to relentlessly evict and demolish homes of the urban and rural poor across India during the deadly COVID-19 pandemic, when housing has been recognized as the frontline defence against the coronavirus. These evictions continued throughout the first and second waves of the pandemic—even during strict lockdowns—in violation of directives of India’s Ministry of Health and Family Welfare and the World Health Organization to stay at home.
During the COVID-19 pandemic (March 2020 to July 2021), the Indian government demolished over 43,600 homes and forcibly evicted over 257,700 people; or at least 505 people per day; or 21 people every hour.
In the year 2020, over 173,300 people lost their homes as a result of direct state action.
From 1 January to 31 July 2021, authorities demolished over 24,400 homes, affecting over 169,000 people.
While these figures are extremely alarming, they present a conservative estimate of the actual scale of the national eviction crisis, as they only reflect cases known to HLRN. The total number of people evicted from their homes as well as those under risk of eviction in India, therefore, is likely to be much higher.
2) Evictions were carried out for a range of reasons and under various guises in 2020, including:
* ‘Slum’ clearance/‘encroachment’ removal/ ‘city beautification’ (19 per cent of total affected persons);
3) In 2020, court orders—including of the Supreme Court of India, state High Courts, and the National Green Tribunal—resulted in the eviction of over 88,560 persons (51 per cent of all people evicted).
4) The overwhelming majority of evicted people (87 per cent) did not receive any rehabilitation from the government. In the absence of resettlement, affected persons have had to make their own provisions for alternative housing or have been rendered homeless. For those who received some form of resettlement from the state, the sites they have been relocated to are remote and devoid of adequate housing and essential civic and social infrastructure facilities.
5) In nearly all documented cases of forced eviction, state authorities did not follow due process.
6) All incidents of forced eviction resulted in multiple human rights violations. Children, women, persons with disabilities, older persons, Dalits/Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes/Adivasis/indigenous peoples, and other marginalized groups have suffered disproportionately from the loss of their homes and habitats.
7) Through these persistent acts of eviction and demolition of homes, the government has violated national laws, policies, and schemes as well as international laws and standards. By carrying out demolitions during the pandemic, the state has ignored guidance to protect people and halt evictions, including from the United Nations (UN) Special Rapporteur on the Right to Adequate Housing.
8) The large majority of evicted people do not have access to justice and their right to effective remedy has not been fulfilled.
On average, between 2017 and 2020, state authorities evicted 185,300 people annually in India.
Housing and Land Rights Network strongly condemns the continued occurrence of forced evictions and demolition of homes of low-income and marginalized communities, with impunity. We call on the Indian government, at all levels, to:
1) Impose an immediate moratorium on evictions for any reason.
2) Provide adequate rehabilitation and compensation for material and non-material losses of affected persons; and, support evicted families to rebuild their homes at the same site if vacant, or provide adequate alternative housing with basic facilities within a vicinity of 2–3 kilometres.
3) Investigate all acts of forced eviction and incidents of fire in settlements – according to the law.
4) Pass housing rights legislation that upholds the human right to adequate housing, as guaranteed in international law. Comply with international human rights standards, including of adequate housing, in all state housing policies.
5) Provide affordable, adequate housing options along a continuum, including social rental housing, hostels, and collective housing options. Adopt the ‘Housing First’ approach that prioritizes the provision of permanent housing to homeless persons and families.
6) Pass a ‘right to homestead’ law to provide secure land for housing and subsistence livelihoods to urban and rural landless households.
7) Carry out ‘eviction impact assessments’ prior to any eviction/relocation. Ensure that the free, prior, and informed consent of all affected persons is taken before any eviction/ relocation/ redevelopment/in-situ upgrading project is finalized.
8) Implement court orders related to upholding the right to housing and providing adequate rehabilitation as well as recommendations of UN human rights mechanisms, including of relevant Special Rapporteurs.
Forced evictions are a gross violation of human rights, at any time. During this lethal pandemic—when people are struggling greatly to survive—acts of eviction and demolition of housing have contributed to a grave human rights and humanitarian crisis across the country, in which the fundamental right to life of affected persons is being directly threatened. Housing and Land Rights Network hopes that this report will help draw attention to this unabating but silent national crisis and that the recommendations presented will be implemented to bring about justice and restoration of the human rights of millions of affected persons.
Please click here to access the report titled Forced Evictions in India in 2020: A Grave Human Rights Crisis During the Pandemic (relased on 9th September, 2021), which has been by Housing and Land Rights Network.
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Image Courtesy: Forced Evictions in India in 2020: A Grave Human Rights Crisis During the Pandemic (released on 9th September, 2021)
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