Over 33,000 homes demolished in urban India between 2015 and 2016
New Delhi—Data collected by Housing and Land Rights Network (HLRN) reveals that public authorities in India, in both the central and state spheres of government, forcibly have evicted at least 33,257 families across urban centers between January 2015 and December 2016. This amounts to over 160,000 people losing their homes in urban areas. Information from rural India is limited, but it is estimated that about 75,000 people were displaced from their homes and habitat.
These figures only reflect cases known to HLRN and may not be exhaustive. 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 the cities of Dharamshala, Kullu, Delhi, Gurgaon, Faridabad, Agra, Allahabad, Patna, Indore, Mhow, Vadodara, Rajkot, Udaipur, 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 states.
Evictions have been carried out for a range of reasons and under various guises—including those termed as “relocation,” “resettlement,” “development” and “redevelopment”—most of which do not benefit or meet development criteria of the affected persons and households.
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 alone 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 this writing, 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, Campaign Coordinator 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 guise of “resettlement” and, against their will, sent them to Perumbakkam, a remote site without basic services or access to schools and livelihood options.
The implementation of alleged “smart city” plans resulted in the demolition of 300 homes in Dharamshala and about 1,200 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.
Deen Bandhu Samaj Sahyog (Indore), an NGO promoting integrated development process and habitational justice, has reported that 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 gave rise to open defecation. This seriously violates the Government of India’s Swachh Bharat (Clean India) 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, amid the cold of winter, the Indian Railways demolished 1,600 homes in Shakur Basti, Delhi, without notice or rehabilitation. An infant died during that demolition/eviction, while five other persons lost their lives from exposure to the cold and inadequate living conditions in the aftermath. 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.
The affected persons, households and communities have suffered various losses, costs and damage at all stages of forced eviction. Before, during, and after evictions affected persons endured the violation of multiple human rights, including rights to life, adequate housing, decent 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, with children and women are the worst affected.
For details, download HLRN India’s press release: “Housing for All?”
Photo: After the railways razed their shanties, residents of the Shakur Basti slum picking up pieces of their lives from debris strewn all over, even as father of his 6-mo.old daughter, Rukaiya, was killed in the midst of a row said his child would have been alive if had the officials shown more generosity and given people more time to escape the bulldozers. Source: Outlook India.