6HWbNHN-show-poster2x3-c7tgE2Y.png

Artbound

Start watching
MJ250sC-show-poster2x3-Bflky7i.png

Tending Nature

Start watching
Southland Sessions

Southland Sessions

Start watching
Earth Focus

Earth Focus

Start watching
5LQmQJY-show-poster2x3-MRWBpAK.jpg

Reporter Roundup

Start watching
City Rising

City Rising

Start watching
Lost LA

Lost LA

Start watching
Member
Your donation supports our high-quality, inspiring and commercial-free programming.
Support Icon
Learn about the many ways to support KCET.
Support Icon
Contact our Leadership, Advancement, Membership and Special Events teams.

Millions in India Face Eviction Amid Coronavirus Recovery Push

Support Provided By


This story was originally published August 18, 2020 by the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

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.

A homeless man and his son cover themselves with a plastic sheet to protect themselves from rain as they walk to a shelter, during a nationwide lockdown to slow the spreading of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Kolkata, India, April 27, 2020. REUTER
A homeless man and his son cover themselves with a plastic sheet to protect themselves from rain as they walk to a shelter, during a nationwide lockdown to slow the spreading of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Kolkata, India, April 27, 2020. | REUTERS/Rupak De Chowdhuri

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.

"Many of these evictions were likely carried out during the lockdown to take advantage of the curfew-like conditions, when movement of affected persons was restricted and they did not have access to legal remedies. This is indefensible," she said.

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.

"These are illegal structures on public land. By removing these structures and people who reside there, we are able to use the land in a manner that benefits more people," said Hariom Attri, a joint commissioner.

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 laborers fled lockdowns that left many without jobs and homes.

The government is also mapping rural residential areas and legalizing 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.

"With every house demolished, the state backtracks on its commitment of housing for all," she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. "It is important for the government to recognize forced evictions as gross violation of human rights. Even one person rendered homeless by the state is too many."

Reporting by Rina Chandran @rinachandran; Editing by Michael Taylor.

Support Provided By
Read More
Farmworkers who harvest and pack bell peppers in the Coachella Valley listen to Montserrat Gomez explain the benefits of the covid vaccines.

Dispelling Vaccine Misinformation and Myths in California’s Breadbasket

Even though farmworkers are vulnerable the coronavirus, many hesitate to get the vaccine, worried the shot could have severe side effects or signal their whereabouts to immigration officials. Immigrant advocates in the Coachella Valley and other farming regions are visiting workers to try to allay their fears.
Trish Tanenbaum receives her first COVID-19 vaccination at Dodger Stadium on January 30, 2021.

Shortage to Close L.A. City Vaccine Super Sites

The mayor lamented the closure as an “enormous hurdle.” But vaccinations aren't completely stopping.
Faith leaders, activists and family members hold a public memorial in front of the Phillip Burton Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse in San Francisco to honor 17 people who died of COVID-19 while in prison or ICE detention. | Justin Sullivan/Getty Image

Health Over Punishment: Organizing Efforts to Stop ICE Transfers in California and Beyond

Public health workers and grassroots organizers are intentionally building collective power across issues and communities for health equity.