04/05/2024, 18.42
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Some 740,000 people evicted in India in the past two years

According to the Housing and Land Rights Network, many evictions remain undocumented. Figures for 2023 are the highest in the last seven years. Local authorities and courts have deviated from previous practices, violating human rights. The government has often failed to offer resettlement or compensation.

New Delhi (AsiaNews) – At least 740,000 people were evicted from their homes and at least 153,000 homes were demolished by the authorities across India between 2022 and 2023, this according to a report by the Housing and Land Rights Network (HLRN), but the actual figures could be much higher since the data include only those cases documented by the HLRN itself.

From 2017 to 2023, more than 1.68 million people were evicted while around 17 million people are still threatened by eviction. In most cases, the authorities failed to follow national and international standards, effectively engaging in a series of human rights violations.

“Demolition drives, in many instances, were carried out with a level of severity and brutality, surpassing that of previous years,” reads the report, which uses the internationally recognised definition of forced evictions, i.e. a “permanent or temporary removal against the will of individuals, families or communities from their homes or land, which they occupy, without the provision of, and access to, appropriate forms of legal or other protection.”

In the past, courts have constructively interpreted the law to provide relief in cases of housing rights violations, the HLRN explains. Certain landmark judgements have “place[d] the duty on state authorities to conduct a survey and provide rehabilitation before carrying out any forcible act of eviction.”

However, recent court orders related to evictions have deviated from these precedents. In two years, almost 300,000 people have been evicted as a result of a court order, with major differences from one year to next.

In 2022, 33,360 people received an eviction order, rising to 260,000 in 2023. Some 46,371 homes were demolished and 230,000 people evicted in 2022, which more than doubled the following year: 107,499 homes were demolished and 51,500 people were evicted.

Figures for 2023 are the highest on record in seven years, the HLRN points out. In most cases (59 per cent), evictions were carried out for “slum or land clearance” or “encroachment removal” or “city beautification”.

More than 290,000 people were evicted in 2023 for these reasons, although, in most cases, the individuals and communities affected were not informed of the reason for the eviction.

The report also identified other motives for evictions and slum clearance: infrastructure projects contributed (road widening, bridge construction, etc.) represent 35 per cent, while environmental reasons, such as forest protection and wildlife conservation represent another 4.7 per cent.

Other cases of demolition were carried out to improve emergency management, make room for tourism projects, and eliminating housing units considered "unsafe”. In some regions, however, evictions were “seemingly carried out as a ‘punitive measure’,” the report notes.

The highest number of evictions occurred in the Delhi National Capital Territory with 280,000 people evicted in 2023 alone.

For the HLRN, relocating displaced people remains an issue; out of a total of 324 instances recorded in the two years, information on resettlement was available in only 122 cases. In these cases, the state offered some form of resettlement or alternative housing in only 25 of the affected sites, partial resettlement in seven sites, and monetary compensation in only seven sites.

“This implies that, in 72% of instances, where information is available, the state failed to resettle or rehabilitate affected persons,” the HLRN report said.


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