In the year 2017, data collected by Housing and Land Rights Network India (HLRN) revealed that government authorities, at both the central and state levels, demolished over 53,700 homes, thereby forcefully evicting more than 260,000 (2.6 lakh) people across urban and rural India, including people experiencing homelessness. HLRN uses the definition of ‘forced eviction’ provided by General Comment 71 of the United Nations (UN) Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights: “The permanent or temporary removal against the will of individuals, families or communities from their homes or land, which they occupy, without the provision of, and access to, appropriate forms of legal or other protection.”
It is important to note that these figures only reflect cases known to HLRN. The actual number of people evicted/displaced across India in 2017, therefore, is likely to be much higher. In the absence of official data on forced evictions, HLRN, through its ‘National Eviction and Displacement Observatory,’ has attempted to document the scale and magnitude of this escalating crisis that has serious short-term and long-term impacts of these demolitions, including on social justice and the nation’s development and prosperity.
HLRN’s research indicates that more people were evicted and displaced in 2017 than in 2016. This increase in forced evictions has occurred despite the central government’s Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (PMAY) or ‘Housing for All–2022’ scheme and increased budgetary allocations for the same.
Major findings from HLRN’s primary and secondary research on forced evictions in India in 2017 include the following:
- Forced evictions occurred across urban and rural areas – in cities, towns, and villages.
- They took place for a range of reasons and under various guises, including: ‘city beautification’ projects, mega events, and interventions aimed at creating ‘slum-free cities’; infrastructure and ostensible ‘development’ projects; forest and wildlife protection; and, disaster management efforts.
- In most of the reported eviction cases, state authorities did not follow due process established by national and international standards.
- In the majority of cases, the state has not provided resettlement; where provided, resettlement is largely inadequate. Forced evictions are thus contributing to a rise in homelessness.
- All cases of forced eviction resulted in multiple, and often gross, human rights violations.
- Through these acts of eviction and demolition of homes, central and state government authorities have violated national and international laws, policies, guidelines, and schemes.
- Thousands of families across India are currently threatened with the risk of eviction and displacement.
These findings are elaborated in greater detail in the report.