Every hour, 21 people evicted from their homes in India amid pandemic: Report

Over 13,000 people were evicted during the peak of the 2nd COVID-19 wave
Every hour, 21 people evicted from their homes in India amid pandemic: Report

As many as 257,700 people across India were evicted from their homes by the central government between March 2020 and July 2021, according to a new report. 

This means over 500 people every day and 21 people every hour were forced to move out of their homes during this period when the country saw two deadly waves of the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, an analysis by Housing and Land Rights Network (HLRN), an independent organisation that works on research, education, and advocacy related to housing and land rights, showed.

State authorities across Indian states demolished at least 24,445 homes, affecting over 169,176 people between January 1, 2021 and July 31, 2021. Of them, 13,750 people were evicted during the peak of the second wave and resultant lockdowns in April and May 2021. 

Forced Evictions in India 2020: A Grave Human Rights Crisis During the Pandemic published September 2021 is the fourth comprehensive report by the ‘National Eviction and Displacement Observatory’ of the network that tracks, records and aims to curtail such evictions.

Instances of evictions in various parts of the country in 2021 included:

  • The Delhi Development Authority demolished 50 houses in Yamuna Khadar in April 2021, when strict movement restrictions were in place
  • Almost 135 families were evicted from a locality near Shastri Park in February 2021
  • The Faridabad Municipal Corporation razed at least 12,000 houses in Khori Gaon, which were inhabited mostly by daily wage labourers. Many of them continue to live among the rubbles with nowhere else to go
  • As many as 2,850 families from five villages in Uttar Pradesh’s Gautam Buddha Nagar district were evicted for the construction of  the Noida International Greenfield Airport between April and July 2021
  • In Odisha, 60 houses in Bolangir district, 500 in Cuttack, 138 in Arabinda Nagar and 207 in Maa Tarini Basti were razed to the ground this year
  • In Mumbai, the Mangrove Conservation Cell demolished 250 houses in Borivali in April 2021. Similarly, in Chheda Nagar, the Cell cleared 450 ‘huts’ in February 2021
  • Homes of low-income families were flattened in various parts of Gujarat: 130 houses in Fathewadi, 90 in Juhapura among others 
  • The Karnataka Slum Development Board razed over 200 houses in Mysuru in April 2021 during the peak of the second wave of the pandemic
  • In south Kashmir’s Shopian district, forest department officials demolished 24 houses of the Gujjar community after an order of the High Court of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh to remove ‘encroachments’.

Most of these people were labourers in the informal sector and had been living in the demolished settlements for decades. Most of the colonies were cleared out to make way for development projects and some for environmental conservation. 

“In India, over four million are homeless and at least 75 million live in informal urban settlements without access to essential services such as water and sanitation,” HLRN said. 

This is despite counsel from various international organisations, including the United Nations, against evictions in the middle of the pandemic as staying indoors is necessary to avoid contagion and also to follow containment protocols, the researchers observed in the report. 

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