• Sunday, Jun 20, 2021
  • Last Update : 06:55 pm

Millions in India face eviction amid Covid-19 recovery push

  • Published at 07:10 pm August 18th, 2020
Migrant workers in Ahmedabad, India
File photo: Migrant workers, who were stranded in the western state of Gujarat due to a lockdown imposed by the government to prevent the spread of coronavirus, maintain social distance, in Ahmedabad on May 5, 2020 Reuters

Nearly half of all evictions were for so-called city beautification drives, with infrastructure projects, conservation schemes and disaster management also being reasons for displacement

Thousands of people were evicted across India during lockdowns to contain the coronavirus pandemic, with millions more at risk of being uprooted as authorities push infrastructure projects to spur economic growth, housing rights campaigners said.

At least 20,000 people were evicted from their homes between March 16 and July 31, despite court orders that banned such actions during lockdowns, according to a report published by the Housing and Land Rights Network (HLRN) in Delhi on Tuesday.

In the last three years for which HLRN has records, at least 568,000 were forcibly removed from their homes across India, or 22 people every hour. Last year alone, more than 107,600 people were evicted.

"India's grave housing crisis has been exacerbated by the forced eviction and home demolition of marginalized, low-income communities - even during the Covid-19 pandemic," said Shivani Chaudhry, HLRN's executive director.

Nearly half of all evictions were for so-called city beautification drives, with infrastructure projects, conservation schemes and disaster management also being reasons for displacement, according to HLRN.

In nearly all cases, authorities did not follow due process including giving sufficient notice, and only about a quarter of those removed were resettled, it said.

There is no official data on evictions in India.

Officials in Delhi and Mumbai, which had evictions during the lockdown, did not respond to requests for comment, while an official in Gurugram near Delhi, which also had an eviction, said none took place then, and that notice is generally given.

Worldwide, eviction bans are ending as lockdowns lift, putting millions at risk of losing their homes.

The Indian government's Housing for All plan aims to create 20 million urban homes and 30 million rural homes by 2022. But implementation has been slow, and campaigners say it does not address the issue of homelessness.

Last month, federal authorities approved a plan to develop affordable urban rental housing for migrant workers after millions of labourers fled lockdowns that left many without jobs and homes.

The government is also mapping rural residential areas and legalising nearly 2,000 informal settlements in Delhi, enabling millions of residents to get property rights.

Yet nearly 15 million people live under the threat of displacement from infrastructure and development projects, including about 2 million people whose rights to forest land have been rejected, according to HLRN.

With the government keen to boost economic growth in the wake of the pandemic, people living at sites earmarked for mines, ports, dams and highways are likely to be removed, Chaudhry said.

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