59% of people evicted from homes in 2021 await compensation: Report
Housing and Land Rights Network’s report said the arbitrary acts of demolition of homes and structures of minority communities have compounded the vulnerabilities of women, children, older persons, and persons with disabilities
Authorities evicted 207,106 people, including 13,750 during the peak of the Covid pandemic in April and May last year, from their homes citing reasons such as environment protection, infrastructure projects, encroachment removal, and beautification projects across the country in 2021, NGO Housing and Land Rights Network (HLRN) has said in a report.
The report titled ‘Forced Eviction in India in 2021’, which was released on Wednesday, said the government has not resettled or compensated at least 59% of them. It added 36,486 houses were demolished resulting in the eviction of 207,106 people across the country in 2021.
As many as 57% of them were evicted for forest and environment protection, 27.13% for infrastructure projects, and 14.31% for encroachment removal and beautification projects. The demolition drives were carried out in at least 17 states and three Union Territories.
HLRN executive director Enakshi Ganguly said of the 117, 623 people evicted for environment-related issues, 94% were forcibly removed for clearance of forest land. “About 57% of the people evicted are due to environmental reasons. This is a serious issue. These people have been living in forests for generations. There is a need to carefully look at the issue.” HLRN cited court orders and disasters among other reasons for the eviction.
The report said government agencies demolished 62,330 houses and evicted over 331,560 people between January 1, 2021, to July 15, 2022.
In its report ‘Forced Evictions in India in 2020: A Grave Human Rights Crisis During the Pandemic,’ released last year, HLRN said around 173,000 people were evicted as 36,812 homes were demolished across India between January and December 2020. Between March and December 2020, about 88,517 people were evicted.
In its fresh report, HLRN, a Delhi-based advocacy and research organisation working on housing and land rights issues, said over 25,800 homes have been demolished, affecting at least 124,450 people in India until July this year. It has cited incidents showing how demolitions were also used as “punitive measures”.
“All the evictions and demolitions have been carried out by government agencies professedly to ‘clear encroachments’ and remove ‘illegal structures’ from public land. However, the state authorities have used this reasoning to arbitrarily select and demolish settlements…”
It said the arbitrary acts of demolition of homes and structures of minority communities have compounded the vulnerabilities of women, children, older persons, and persons with disabilities.
The report said that 191,070 houses were demolished affecting 984,493 people from 2017 to 2021. It added that forced evictions and inadequate resettlement have affected women most in terms of loss of livelihoods, access to food, breakdown of social structures and support systems, debilitating health impacts, and increased vulnerability to gender-based violence.
“Incidents of home demolition and eviction also adversely impact economic and social vulnerabilities of women and exacerbate pre-existing and intersectional challenges faced by women in accessing their rights to housing, land, health, work, water, sanitation, privacy, and security.”
In 2021, at least 28% of the evictions were of people belonging to the marginalised sections. “Primary research by HLRN reveals that of the total 158 cases of eviction documented in the year 2021, in 44 incidents (28 per cent) the people affected belong to marginalized groups, including Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, Other Backward Classes, nomadic communities, migrant workers, and Muslims, including in Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, and Rajasthan.”
The report said 15 million people live under the threat of eviction and demanded an “immediate national moratorium” on forced evictions and home demolitions.It has called for strict measures to ensure demolitions are not used against communities as a means of meting out summary justice or punishment.
“The practice of ‘punitive demolition’ disproportionately targets low-income communities who are already marginalized and violates all due process norms and established national and international human rights laws and standards. The state must strongly condemn any evictions, which are carried out to instil fear and insecurity among specific communities and individuals.”
Ganguly called for an urgent need to provide alternative accommodation to all evicted families waiting for rehabilitation for years. “...the government should develop a comprehensive housing policy aimed at providing durable solutions for adequate housing for all. There is also a need to carry out human rights-based eviction impact assessments.”