The Special Rapporteur on adequate housing of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, Miloon Kothari, issued the following statement today:
“The Special Rapporteur on adequate housing, appointed by the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, has paid particular attention to the problem of forced evictions worldwide. In this context, he has on several occasions expressed his concern about the practice of forced evictions in India generally, and in New Delhi particularly. This includes his asking the government for information regarding the large-scale demolitions of slum dwellings and forced evictions in the Yamuna Pushta area of New Delhi that took place from February to June 2004. His attempts to seek information from authorities on this issue have so far not received any response. The Special Rapporteur wishes to publicly express his deep concern about the reported forced eviction on 16 October 2004, affecting women and children from the Palika Hostel night shelter for homeless, by the New Delhi Municipal Council (NDMC). According to reports NDMC staff was using excessive force and destroying the personal belongings of the women and children while effectuating the eviction. Information received suggests that the eviction was undertaken in a manner contrary to international human rights law, in violation of the rights of the women and children, in particular of their right to adequate housing as a component of the right to an adequate standard of living.
Despite alleged assurances to the contrary given to civil society by the Prime Minister, NDMC went ahead with the eviction that has pushed over 100 homeless women and children back on the streets. New Delhi’s high crime rate and unsafe streets make homeless women and children particularly vulnerable to rape, sexual assault, abuse, and oppression. This should be seen in light of the evictions in Yamuna Pushta, when slums were demolished and approximately 130,000 people were forcibly evicted. Disturbing reports indicate that these families have still not received alternative housing, compensation or appropriate rehabilitation, and many have been forced to return to the streets. The Special Rapporteur is particularly concerned that these evictions have affected the very poor and already vulnerable.
The alleged forced eviction of women and children and the closure of the Palika Hostel night shelter was seemingly undertaken in a manner not respecting the international human rights obligations of the Government of India, in particular those under the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women and the Convention on the Rights of the Child. The forced eviction is seemingly also in direct contradiction with the NDMC Act 1994 and the Government’s Common Minimum Programme (CMP).
The Special Rapporteur calls on responsible government bodies to immediately provide alternative housing for the displaced women and children in an adequate shelter, close to the original location of Palika Hostel. Civil society organisations have reportedly identified several unused community centres in the vicinity for this purpose. In the absence of an urgently needed comprehensive strategy to address the housing rights of Delhi’s poor, and in light of the onset of winter, the Special Rapporteur also strongly calls for the creation of more shelters and adequate housing that provide basic amenities like water and sanitation, and are located close to livelihood sources of the poor and homeless. The Special Rapporteur further urges the relevant authorities to take all necessary steps to investigate alleged human rights violations, including excessive use of force, in connection with the evictions on 16 October 2004, including, where appropriate, prosecution of perpetrators”.