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Over 33,000 Homes Demolished in Urban India between 2015 and 2016; RTI Reveals only 2,776 Houses Built under PMAY–Urban in 2015–16

RM Correspondent

Data collected by Housing and Land Rights Network (HLRN) reveals that government authorities, at both the central and state levels, forcefully evicted at least 33,257 families across urban India between January 2015 and December 2016. This amounts to about 160,000 people losing their homes in urban areas. Information from rural India is limited, but at a minimum, more than 75,000 people were displaced from their homes and habitat. These figures only reflect cases known to HLRN. The actual number of people evicted/displaced across India is, therefore, likely to be much higher.

In 2015 and 2016, forced evictions were reported in metropolitan cities, small towns, and villages. These include Dharamshala , Kullu, Delhi, Gurgaon, Faridabad, Agra, Allahabad, Patna, Indore, Mhow, Vadodara, Rajkot, Udaipur, Hyderabad, Villupuram, Chennai, Coimbatore, Coonor, Mumbai, Nashik, Aurangabad, Hyderabad, Bengaluru, and Bhubaneswar, as well as in villages in Assam, Manipur, Arunachal Pradesh, Karnataka, and Andhra Pradesh.

Evictions have been carried out for a range of reasons and under various guises—including relocation/resettlement/development/redevelopment—most of which do not benefit the affected persons. In many cases, contrary to state claims, evictions are not undertaken for a ‘public purpose.’ Authorities often do not have a legal basis for the eviction, nor do they provide a justifiable reason to people before evicting them from their homes.

Despite the severe cold and orders prohibiting evictions in winter, India’s capital city Delhi witnessed three incidents of forced eviction in the last three weeks. On 5-6 December 2016, the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) demolished about 300 homes in Kishangarh, leaving residents out in the cold for no stated reason. On 20 and 21 December, the Delhi government razed homes in Seemapuri and Chhatarpur. DDA destroyed 700 homes in Bela Estate, Delhi in September 2016 and earlier in December 2015, without any official order or documented purpose. At the time of writing this press release, forced relocation is taking place in Delhi’s Kathputli Colony. Surrounded by five companies of paramilitary forces and 500 police personnel with assault rifles, riot gear and tear gas, the neighbourhood has been under siege for the past three days. According to Abdul Shakeel, CampaignCoordinator at HLRN, “DDA officials are using coercive means to make residents vacate their homes for a public-private partnership (PPP) redevelopment project with Raheja Builders, which the majority does not approve.”

Between February and June 2016, Information and Resource Centre for Deprived Urban Communities (Chennai) reported that about 4,500 low-income families affected by the 2015 Chennai floods were forcefully relocated to the inadequate resettlement sites of Perumbakkam and Ezhil Nagar, under the guise of ‘disaster rehabilitation.’ In November 2016, Tamil Nadu state authorities evicted over 100 families in Aminjikarai, Chennai in the garb of ‘resettlement’ and, against their will, sent them to

Perumbakkam – a remote site without basic services or access to schools and livelihood options.

Alleged implementation of smart city plans resulted in the demolition of 300 homes in Dharamshala and about 1200 homes in Indore. This raises serious doubts about the inclusiveness of India’s Smart Cities Mission, which aims to build 100 ‘smart cities’ across the country by the year 2020.

According to Deen Bandhu Samaj Sahyog (Indore), the Municipal Corporation of Indore demolished 727 homes between September and November 2016, allegedly for the sole reason that they did not have toilets and practiced open defecation. This seriously violates the Swachh Bharat Mission that commits to building toilets for all in order to make India ‘open defecation free by 2019.’

In several instances, violence during eviction and arbitrary detention of residents have been reported. In June 2015, officials of the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority accompanied by a large police force demolished 3,000 houses in Mandala, Mumbai. The police resorted to violence when residents tried to salvage their belongings, and arrested about 200 people under Section 149 of the Indian Penal Code. In Rangpuri Pahadi, Delhi, officials arrested and detained three women in Tihar Jail for 18 days, only because they tried to resist the demolition of their homes.

Forced evictions, in some cases, have resulted in death. In December 2015, during the peak of winter, the Indian Railways demolished 1600 homes in Shakur Basti, Delhi, without notice or rehabilitation. During the demolition, an infant died while five other persons lost their lives from exposure to the cold and inadequate living conditions in the aftermath of the eviction. In Indore, a young man lost his life during the demolition of Chander Prabhas Shekhar Nagar in August 2015. Of those relocated to the Bada Bangarda resettlement site, 35 persons reportedly lost their lives in the absence of basic services and poor living conditions.

In all the reported demolitions of homes of Economically Weaker Sections (EWS) and Low Income Groups (LIG) across India, there has been little or no compliance with human rights safeguards, such as consultation with affected people, advance notice, free and prior informed consent, compensation, and adequate resettlement. The processes followed before, during, and after evictions have resulted in the violation of multiple human rights of affected persons, including their rights to life, adequate housing, work, health, food, water, education, security of the person and home, and freedom of movement and residence. The loss of homes, personal possessions, and educational material during demolitions, and the loss of livelihoods, education, and health in the aftermath have resulted in increased marginalization and impoverishment of evicted families. Children and women are the worst affected.

These acts of forced eviction and demolition of homes breach the provisions of the Constitution of India, national and international law, and Indian court judgments that have interpreted the right to housing as an integral component of the right to life under Article 21 of the Constitution.

The reported evictions and demolitions also contravene the targets of Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (PMAY) or the Housing for All–2022 scheme, under which the Government of India has promised to construct 20 million homes in urban areas and 30 million homes in rural areas by 2022. While these commitments are commendable, the slow rate of implementation coupled with the destruction of EWS/LIG housing makes realization seemingly improbable at this stage.

Information received in response to a Right to Information (RTI) query filed by HLRN with the Ministry of Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation, discloses that as of 17 August 2016, the Government of India had sanctioned 891,346 houses under three components of PMAY–Urban: in-situ slum redevelopment, affordable housing in partnership, and the beneficiary-led construction scheme, but had built only 2776 houses in three states – Gujarat (1719), Chhatisgarh (718), and Tamil Nadu (339). Under the fourth component, the credit-linked subsidy scheme, the government had disbursed Rs 16.7 crore (Rs 167 million) to 9659 beneficiary households (as of 31 August 2016).

The RTI response sent to HLRN thus reveals that performance under PMAY–Urban appears to be abysmal in the first 14 months of the scheme (June 2015 to August 2016). At this rate, it seems unlikely that 20 million houses can be built in urban areas by 2022. This would require constructing over 10,000 houses a day without demolishing one unit.

According to Shivani Chaudhry, Executive Director, Housing and Land Rights Network: “It is a sad irony that despite claims of providing ‘housing for all,’ the government has destroyed many more homes than it has built in urban areas over the last two years. This has further exacerbated the existing national housing shortage. It is also alarming that instead of providing sanitation facilities to all homes without toilets, as per the Swachh Bharat Mission, the government is demolishing such homes and manipulating ‘open defecation free’ targets of the scheme. Unless the government acknowledges that such actions violate human rights and the law, and unless it takes strong measures to end these practices, including punitive action against officials carrying out forced evictions and demolitions, the living conditions of India’s majority will not improve.”

The government’s performance with regard to the construction of rural housing under the erstwhile Indira Awas Yojana (IAY), now renamed PMAY–Gramin (rural), has been better. A response from the Ministry of Rural Development reveals that the central government sanctioned a total of 2,451,298 houses in rural areas in 2015–16, of which 805,115 houses were completed. For the financial year 2016–17, Rs 3306 crore had been utilized for the construction of 1,020,173 houses (as of 22 September 2016). However, greater efforts are needed to meet the rural housing shortage of 40 million. During this period, evictions in rural areas also continued.

While information on loss of homes in rural areas is not easily available, HLRN has learned of the displacement of 1700 people in Chadong and Tumukhong villages, and the loss of farmland of villagers in Riha, Thoyee, and Ramrei, as a result of the Mapithel Dam in Manipur. In 2016, evictions were also reported in Sendra Village, Manipur; Kaziranga National Park, Assam; Namsai, Arunachal Pradesh; Angaluru Village, Andhra Pradesh; and Virpapur Gadda Island and Devimachi Reserve Forest in Karnataka, among other areas.

HLRN strongly condemns all the forced evictions, displacement, demolitions of homes of the urban and rural poor, and forced relocation taking place across India. Given that these incidents have resulted in gross human rights violations, in contravention of laws, policies, and schemes, HLRN would like

To propose the following recommendations to the central and state governments:

  1. Take immediate measures toward restitution of human rights of affected persons by providing adequate rehabilitation and compensation; restoring homes, livelihoods, and education; and enabling return to original sites of residence, where possible.
  1. Investigate incidents of forced eviction and take action against those found guilty of violating the law and human rights.
  1. Implement laws and court judgements upholding the human right to adequate housing, and incorporate international guidelines, including the UN Basic Principles and Guidelines onDevelopment-based Evictions and Displacement, into national and state laws and policies. Also implement recommendations of UN treaty bodies and Special Procedures.
  1. Issue a directive prohibiting forced evictions without due process across India, and ensure that evicted, displaced, homeless/landless families are considered for priority housing under PMAY.
  1. Prioritize participatory and human rights-based in situ (on site) upgrading of housing that respects peoples’ livelihoods and cultural needs.
  1. Invest adequately in low-cost housing for EWS/LIG, with a focus on social rental housing.
  1. Adopt UN standards for ‘adequate housing’ in all new housing, in situ upgrading, and redevelopment projects. These include: legal security of tenure; provision of basic services; habitability; affordability; accessibility (for all); adequate location; and cultural adequacy.
  1. Ensure that the free and prior informed consent of all affected persons is taken before any relocation/redevelopment/in situ upgrading project is finalized.
  1. Recognize rights of communities and provide security of tenure to residents of low-income settlements. Many families have been living in settlements for decades and have legal rights to the land based on the doctrine of ‘adverse possession.’ However, the state continues to view them as ‘encroachers’ and evicts them from their homes and land. This mind-set needs to change and also needs to be reflected in state policy.
  1. Incorporate a human rights and social justice approach for implementation of schemes related to housing, including PMAY, Smart Cities Mission, and Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT), and ensure that no further evictions and violations of human rights take place.

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