NEW DELHI: Over 1 lakh people were evicted and over 22,000 houses demolished across the rural and urban areas of the country during 2019, according to a Housing and Land Rights Network (HLRN) report released on Tuesday. However, these are only conservative estimates, pointed out the report.
During the pandemic alone, there were at least 45 incidents of evictions and at least 20,000 people were evicted, the HLRN report said.
The sites of eviction amid the COVID-19 outbreak include Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, Jammu and Kashmir, Karnataka, Telangana, Manipur, Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Chattisgarh, Haryana, and Delhi, the report ‘Forced evictions in India in 2019: An Unrelenting National Crisis’ documented.
A significant number of the at least 4.6 lakh people evicted during the years 2017 and 2018 were not resettled by 2019 by the government and continued to live in inadequate conditions marked by high insecurity, lack of access to basic services, and fear, according to the report.
The report raised concerns on why settlements were demolished as the lands were not used for any other purpose following the evictions.
Children, women, persons with disabilities, older persons, Dalits, and other marginalised groups have suffered disproportionately from the loss of their homes and habitats, said the report.
Between 2017 to 2019, over 2.6 lakh people were evicted due to ‘slum’ clearance/ encroachment’ removal/‘beautification’, over 96,000 people for ‘environmental projects/forest protection’, 38,600 for ‘disaster management’, over 1.5 lakh for infrastructure projects, 41,500 for highway/road construction and expansion, 46,400 for state housing projects, and over 22,000 for smart cities mission and ‘smart city’ projects, according to the report.
A HLRN analysis of the causes of evictions and home demolitions in 2019 showed that the majority occurred for removal of houses of the urban poor, based on the perception of the state and its agencies that they are ‘illegal’ or ‘encroachments’.
This resulted in ‘slum-clearance’, ‘encroachment-removal’, and ‘city-beautification’ drives, evicting about 43 per cent of the total number of people evicted during the year. Similar trend was recorded by HLRN in the years 2017 and 2018.
“It is a cause of great concern that the planned dispossession and state-induced impoverishment of nearly 600,000 people over the last three years is not treated as a human rights emergency in India. There is no official data on evictions, no investigation, and no justice for affected persons. It is time to end this culture of silence, to uphold the right to housing as a human right in law, and to end forced evictions through a national moratorium,” said Shivani Chaudhry, executive director, HLRN.