43,600 houses demolished, 2.57 lakh people forcibly evicted during Covid-19: Report

These included the demolition of 200 houses in Mysuru by the Karnataka Slum Development Board for expansion of railway tracks in April this year
Last Updated 13 September 2021, 08:49 IST

At least 43,600 houses were demolished and 2.57 lakh people were forcibly evicted by public authorities across the country between March 2020 and July 2021 during the Covid-19 pandemic, a report has claimed.

The report titled 'Forced Evictions in 2020: A Grave Human Rights Crisis During the Pandemic', which covers the whole of 2020 and till July this year, suggests that authorities evicted at least 505 people per day or 21 people every hour across urban and rural India during the pandemic.

"In the last four years — from 2017 to 2020 — state agencies forcibly evicted over 7,41,300 people in rural and urban India. On average, between 2017 and 2020, 1,85,300 people were evicted annually in India," it said.

There were at least 245 incidents of forced evictions across India during the pandemic from March 2020 to July 2021. Of these incidents, the report by the NGO 'Housing and Land Rights Network (HLRN)', 119 have occurred in 2021 between January 1 to July 31 this year while 126 took place between March and December last year.

It said home demolitions by state authorities even continued during the pandemic-induced lockdowns in 2020 and 2021.

Even as people were ordered to stay at home, it said, "authorities resorted to unlawful demolitions, probably taking advantage of the curfew-like conditions when the movement of people and access to remedy, including to courts, was limited."

An analysis by HLRN showed that authorities demolished at least 24,445 homes during the first seven months of this year alone, affecting over 1,69,176 people. Of these, about 13,750 people were evicted during the peak of the second wave and resultant lockdowns in April and May 2021.

Almost all incidents of eviction this year have rendered low-income communities homeless at the peak of the pandemic.

"The widespread devastation caused by these demolitions during this public health emergency has resulted in the blatant violation of human rights of affected persons, including their right to life guaranteed by the Constitution of India," the report said.

These included the demolition of 200 houses in Mysuru by the Karnataka Slum Development Board for expansion of railway tracks in April this year.

In 2020 January, the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) razed 500 houses in Devarabeesanahalli and 200 houses in Bellandur and Kariyammana Agrahara to remove 'encroachments', the report said.

"Affected residents, who were migrant workers, were wrongfully labelled 'illegal Bangladeshis' and this was used as a justification for demolishing their homes. Providing relief to the families, the High Court of Karnataka stayed further eviction by BBMP and asked the state government to provide rehabilitation to the affected families," it said.

In 2020, there were demolitions of 36,812 houses, resulting in the forced eviction of a minimum of 1,73,333 people across the country.

According to the report, 87% did not receive any rehabilitation from the government while resettlement or partial resettlement or some compensation was provided in only 13% of the documented cases of eviction in 2020 for which information is available.

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(Published 13 September 2021, 08:49 IST)

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