HIC-HLRN-India Launches Habitat III Status Report


Delhi—On Friday, HIC Housing and Land Rights Network (HLRN) launched its first
Habitat III country report titled, Housing and Land Rights in India: Status
Report for Habitat III
. The United Nations (UN) Conference on Housing and
Sustainable Urban Development (Habitat III)—the third bidecennial international
conference on habitat issues—will be held in Quito, Ecuador, in October 2016,
to adopt a new Habitat Agenda till the year 2036.

The HIC HLRN report for Habitat III, being submitted to the Government of India and the
UN, has been endorsed by 56 organizations, social movements, and community
groups across the country. It presents an indispensable analysis of India’s
implementation of the Habitat Agenda, as states and governments pledged to do
upon its adoption at the Habitat II conference in Istanbul in 1996. Applying
the core principles and commitments of the Habitat Agenda, the HLRN report
documents the status of housing and land rights in the country and highlights
relevant law and policy developments over the implementation period. It also
provides recommendations to the Indian government for the improvement of
housing and living conditions, and to UN-Habitat and organizers for the
development of a human rights-based agenda at Habitat III.

A.P. Shah
, former
Chief Justice of the High Court of Delhi, released the report and expressed his
concern over the rise of forced evictions and homelessness across India. He
highlighted the problem of homelessness, particularly in urban environments and
in megacities like Delhi, where affordable housing options are practically
nonexistent. He drew attention to the millions of residents of these urban
spaces who are compelled to live in pathetic conditions on the streets, or in
low quality and poorly serviced settlements, while policymakers make arbitrary
policies about evictions and resettlement, and while fellow citizens
“conveniently forget that these are usually the people who actually run the
city—they are the road sweepers who keep our streets clean, the housemaids who
keep our homes clean, the construction workers and labourers who build our
roads, gleaming corporate offices and palatial mansions.” Justice Shah observed
that although the Supreme Court and various High Courts had recognized the
right to housing as an integral part of the fundamental right to life in
Article 21, the right itself remained only an abstract right, on paper, and
these people still face tremendous prejudice on a daily basis, routinely called
“encroachers, or trespassers, or even criminals.”

explaining the rationale for the report, Shivani
, Executive Director of HIC Housing and Land Rights
Network, said, “It is a failure of governance—at the international and national
levels—that the Habitat Agenda, which reiterates states’ commitments to
protecting the human right to adequate housing, has not been implemented.
Instead of retaining the focus on ‘human settlements,’ as also articulated in
Sustainable Development Goal 11, it is unfortunate that UN-Habitat and
conference organizers have narrowed the Habitat III scope to a “new urban
agenda.” The rural dimension of habitat cannot be ignored. The claim to the
“inevitability of urbanization” must be questioned. A sustained focus on
balanced rural and urban land, housing, and development, as the Habitat Agenda
promised, could help reduce forced migration and the unmanageable pace of
urbanization.” Speaking about the role of the Indian government, Ms. Chaudhry
added that, “While ‘housing for all by 2022’ is a noteworthy goal, India must also
develop a human rights-based housing law that can be implemented.”

report release was followed by a panel discussion on The Right to Housing in India: International
Commitments and National Response
. Independent experts explored
various dimensions of India’s legal commitments to, and violations of, the
human right to adequate housing across the country.

Usha Ramanathan
independent law researcher, while condemning the prevalence of forced
evictions, stated that, “The idea of the poor as ‘illegal’ in the country has
let demolitions happen with impunity. This is such a distorted notion. When
land is acquired for planned development of the city, and housing for the poor
is not constructed, is it the poor who are illegal or is it the state that does
not do what the law requires it to do?” Dr. Ramanathan further mentioned that,
“Repeated demolition of the dwellings of the poor results in the creation of
urban nomads, viz., people who cannot settle anywhere because there is a
refusal to recognize their right to the city.”

Miloon Kothari
former United Nations Special Rapporteur on adequate housing, emphasized that,
“We urgently need to ensure that millions of residents of India have their
rights to housing, potable water, and sanitation realized. These imperatives
must take precedence over the development of smart cities and mega urban
corridors. The Habitat III world conference offers India an opportunity to
demonstrate to the international community that the government is serious about
meeting the colossal human settlements challenge that the country faces.”

of the recommendations made in the HIC HLRN report include the need for a
moratorium on forced evictions; improved state accountability; trial of
officials responsible for violations of housing and land rights; implementation
of international law, guidelines, and recommendations of UN treaty bodies,
Special Procedures, and the Universal Periodic Review of the UN Human Rights
Council; better coordination among ministries and national human rights institutions;
and recognition by nation states and UN-Habitat of the rural-urban continuum.
The HLRN report asserts that the outcome document of the Habitat III conference
should adopt a strong human rights approach that integrates the commitments of
the Habitat Agenda as well as international law and standards.

the event, HIC HLRN also released a compilation titled United Nations Documents Related to Housing and
Land Rights in India
. This document is intended to serve as a
reference for understanding, monitoring, and reporting on India’s compliance
with international law and guidelines, and recommendations of UN bodies and

more information, please contact: (+91) 98182-05234/99719-28737

the new HLRN report online: Housing and Land Rights in India: Status Report for Habitat III

also: United Nations Documents Related to Housing and Land Rights in India