Housing and Land Rights Network (HLRN) has brought to light and condemned incidents of forced evictions across the country during the Covid-19 Lockdown. In its press release dated 17th June 2020, HRLN stated that such forced evictions during the harsh lockdown have resulted in extensive loss of lives and livelihoods. Such moves are also in violations of Human Rights the press note states.
Incidents of Forced Evictions:
HLRN has recorded at least 22 incidents of forced evictions and demolition of houses during the lockdown period across the country between 16th March and 16th June. These incidents have been undertaken by both Central and State government authorities. The noted reasons for such evictions include ‘Beautification Projects’, Smart city projects, Land and Forest clearances. It has been estimated conservatively that at least 13500 people have been adversely affected through such measures.
In many cases, people have been rendered Such evictions stand in grave violation of Human Rights on multiple grounds and cannot be justified during the ongoing pandemic outburst which has put health and economy under such acute distress. This has put the lives of the people evicted in grave danger as are exposed to an increased risk of contracting Covid-19 and also to climatic extremities like heat and rain. These evictions have occurred across states and Union Territories including Chattisgarh, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh Karnataka, Rajashthan, Maharashtra, Odisha, Manipur, J&K, MP, Delhi, and Telangana.
Forced Evictions at Hubballi:
According to sources of HLRN and Times of India, Hubli-Dharwad Municipal Corporation and Public Works Department along with Police had undertaken an anti-encroachment drive. In this, as many as 94 houses which had allegedly encroached Amminbhavi-Amargol Main Road were partially demolished on 14th June in Hubli. Two religious structures on the road were also removed.
Violation of Human Rights Standards:
It was noted that in most of these cases, due processes were not followed. They were not served notices in advance and alternative housing arrangements were also not made for the people evicted. Forced evictions are a gross violation of human rights according to the UN. Forced evictions and demolition of houses stand in violation of multiple human rights, including the right to life, health, adequate housing, food, water, and sanitation.
Earlier, UN Special Rapporteur on Adequate Housing had earlier urged all states to stop evictions for whatsoever the reason until the end of the pandemic and for a reasonable period of time thereafter. Being evicted from one’s home during Covid-19 would be a ”potential death sentence”. UN Committee on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights also had urged states to impose a moratorium on evictions during the pandemic. Several Indian courts like the High Court of Allahabad and Bombay had directed the state authorities not to evict people or demolish their houses during the lockdown.
State uses the lockdown period to its advantage:
These forced evictions and demolition of homes have happened during the lockdown and right after it ended. It seems that the lockdown has been advantageous to the states as they made good use of curfew-like situations. The lockdown had left people with restrictions on movement and no access to legal remedies which made it easier for the governments to continue with its forced evictions.
HLRN’s effort to reach out to the governments:
On 13th March, HLRN through press release called upon the Government of India to take note of this grave issue. On 18th March, it had written to the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs. It demanded MHUA impose a national moratorium on forced evictions and ensure that no one is rendered homeless. The ministry had heard the demands and forwarded it to all state governments on 29th April 2020. Through this, the ministry had asked the state governments to frame policies to protect those without adequate housing. Despite all these efforts, authorities at all levels including the Indian Railways have committed these grave Human Rights violations.
In the backdrop of this alarming situation, HLRN has called on the state at all levels to immediately:
- Impose a national moratorium on evictions, for any reason, until 31st December 2020.
- Provide compensation for loss of housing and personal belongings amongst others and provide adequate alternative housing to the evicted housing
- Investigate all forced evictions that have taken place during the pandemic in accordance with the laws.
- Ensure the provision of adequate services of water, sanitation, and access to food and livelihood sources to the poor.
- Uphold the human right of adequate housing for all and recognize its importance to health. Develop solutions to provide adequate housing to homeless and other inadequately-housed persons.