Even as India reeled under a pandemic, more than 250,000 people in the country were evicted from their homes by authorities between March 2020 and July 2021.
This means nearly 21 people were evicted every hour.
Analysis by the Housing and Land Rights Network (HLRN) – an independent organisation working on research, education and advocacy related to land and housing rights – found out that between 1 January 2021 and 31 July 2021, state authorities across India demolished at least 24,445 homes, affecting over 169,176 people.
Of these, about 13,750 people were evicted during the peak of the second wave and resultant lockdowns in April and May 2021.
“At a time when people were ordered to stay at home, authorities resorted to unlawful demolitions, probably taking advantage of curfew-like conditions when movement of people and access to remedy, including to courts, was limited,” the report reads.
In the year 2020, evictions were carried out for a range of reasons including ‘slum-clearance/encroachment-removal/city-beautification’ drives; infrastructure and development projects; environmental projects, forest protection, and wildlife conservation; disaster management’ efforts; and other reasons such as political rallies and targeted discrimination.
The report said that ‘environmental’ reasons displaced the highest number of people – 49 per cent of the total number of people evicted in the year.
However, the overwhelming majority of people evicted in 2020 did not receive any kind of rehabilitation from the government.
Resettlement/partial resettlement/some compensation was provided in only 13 per cent of the documented cases of eviction in 2020 for which information is available, the report said.
A large number of these demolitions were sanctioned by the courts and the central government.
Recently on 7 September, the Faridabad district administration began a demolition drive at Delhi-NCR's Jamai Colony, which was situated on Aravalli land.
Earlier in July, acting on the orders of the Supreme Court of India, the Faridabad Municipal Corporation also demolished at least 12,000 houses belonging mostly to daily-wage workers in Khori Gaon.
Several weeks prior to the eviction, authorities had cut off water and electricity supply to the colony. Some residents who continue to live among the rubble of their demolished houses have reportedly asked for speedy rehabilitation as they have nowhere to go.
In Assam, anti-encroachment drives are being carried out after CM Himanta Biswas Sarma's promise to clear 'illegal' encroachments from over 77,000 'bighas' (25,455 acres) of government-owned land for the employment of youth in agricultural purposes.
At least 800 homes have been cleared from the Darrang area since Monday, 20 September 2021.
On Thursday, 23 September, at least two people were reported dead and nine were reported to be injured, after police personnel open fired on locals amid the eviction drive.
According to India's 2011 census report, approximately 65 million people live in urban slums. Nearly 16 million people live under the threat of eviction and displacement, the report said.
The central government has made promises under the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (PMAY) to provide affordable housing to the urban poor by the year 2022 – though question marks remain over the fulfillment of these promises.