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Cutting the Ground: Human rights impact on forcible eviction

On November 29, the Human Land & Rights Network (HLRN) and Information and Resource Centre for the Deprived Urban Communities (IRCDUC) released a collaborative report to present a comprehensive human rights assessment of the living conditions faced by persons evicted in 2006 from Porur Lake, Chennai— one of the earliest and largest eviction drives in the name of “restoration of water bodies” in Tamil Nadu.

Sabrangindia 04 Dec 2019

hrln

HLRN is an human rights organisation that works on issues related to adequate housing and land, whereas IRCDUC is a policy think tank focused on work related to deprived urban communities.
 

The displacement dilemma

According to HLRN’s 2018 “Forced Evictions in India” report, 2,02,233 people, mainly from the low-income communities, have been forcefully evicted in 2018 across India.

Tamil Nadu is especially notorious for forcibly evicting communities along water bodies, a trend that has only intensified since the 2015 Chennai floods. The public discourse surrounding the issue, however, has been limited to treating the poor as “encroachers.” This notion, then, adds more obstacles in the discussionof their constitutionally guaranteed rights of residing in the locales.

HLRN reported in 2018 that particularly in Chennai, evictions were executed under the guise of “disaster management,”“restoration of water bodies,” and as execution of a Madras High Court order“to take expeditious steps for early removal of encroachments by construction of alternative tenements.”

Interestingly, Venessa Peter of IRCDUC said to Chennai’s DT Next, “The government is removing ordinary people but they do not touch commercial establishments encroaching the waterbodies.”
 

The eviction

For three days since November23, 2006, these 10,700 families who were living in the Porur Lake area were forcibly evicted by the Public Works Department and the District Administration without due processunder the guise of “restoration of water bodies.”

The International Alliance of Inhabitants (IAI) reported that police personnel arrived in large numbers with earth movers and bulldozers to demolish the present settlements in the area. A three-year-old girl fell into the water and died, while two people died of heart attacks.

IAI further reported that the evicted families had no time to remove their valuables from their houses before the demolition, and lost all their household possessions within a few minutes. Some people were not even able to take their children’s certificates.


The report

Titled “Deprivation By Design—An Assessment of the Long-term Impacts of Forced Relocation from Porur Lake, Chennai,” this collaborative report covers findings fromtheir primary research study focused on the long-term human rights implications that the forced evictionshave had on these families.

Out of the approximately 10,700 families evicted, only 4,000 families were provided alternative land in two sites—Collector Nagar and Nallur—are situated over 20 kilometres from Porur Lake.Both resettlement sites are situated in interior and remote locations without adequate access to public transportation, and yet, these resettled families are better off than the remaining 6,700 families evicted from Porur Lake in 2006 did not receive any relief or rehabilitation from the state whatsoever.

As per the report, the study uses the human rights framework to analyse the process of eviction and relocation of 4,000 relocated families, and to assess the housing and living conditions at both sites. 
 

The findings

Here is a brief summary of the report’s findings.

Violation of the Right to Restitution, including Compensation and Resettlement:The 4000 resettled families have not been provided with any restitution as against what they have lost. They don’t have any legal title over the new land, and have only received ‘tokens’ [a piece of paper with a seal of the tehsildar (revenue official)] for the plot of land six days after they were evicted, on 29 November 2006.

Violation of the Human Right to Adequate Housing and Work/Livelihood: The resettlements sites of Collector Nagar and Nallur are in remote locations with no connectivity to the main road. Nallur is located very close to a water body,which is why the resettled families experience flooding during the monsoon season every year. They also report regular encounters with snakes.In Collector Nagar, even 13 years after relocation, people do not have any legal security of tenure over the land that they have been living on for over a decade.

The lack of connectivity further affects the residents’ opportunities to earn livelihoods. Only 16 per cent of men and 30 per cent of women are employed in informal work in and around the locality; the rest continue to commute to locations near Porur Lake for their livelihoods.

Violation of the Human Right to Education: Children’s education has been severely impacted. In Collector Nagar, an AWC was started only 11 years after families moved there, while in Nallur, it took the state 10 years to set up a functional AWC.

Violation of the Human Right to Water and Sanitation:

In Collector Nagar, one common overhead water tank supplies water for only an hour a day. Government water tankers aimed at meeting the drinking water shortfall, only visit the settlement once in two days. Women bear the burden of fetching water for their families, as most households do not have individual water connections.

In Nallur, water tanks were installed only 10 years after relocation. The settlement does not have household water connections; neither does it have adequate drinking water facilities. Women walk to the end of the road to fetch water from a common tap.
 

Conclusion

The recommendations made by HLRN and IRCDUC to the Government of Tamil Nadu include:

  • To ensure the right to adequate housing and security of tenure is protected by developing a state-level human right to adequate housing law, which commits to ending forced evictions and ensures the provision of legal security of tenure without any discrimination.

  • To develop a human rights-based, gender-sensitive, and child-friendly policy on rehabilitation and resettlement, in order to ensure a comprehensive and planned approach that respects the human rights of affected persons and adheres to national and international laws, policies, guidelines, and standards.

  • To ensure that resettlement is provided within a distance of three kilometres from people’s original sites of residence.

  • To announce an inclusive land reservation policy for deprived urban communities. Such a policy should focus on equitable spatial allocation of land for the poor, based on their proportion to the total population.

  • To incorporate human rights standards in law and policy related to housing, land, and resettlement in the state.

As Executive Director of HLRN Shivani Chaudhary, noted, “The tendency of the state to consider low-income marginalized communities as dispensable in its broader agenda of non-inclusive urbanisation, while being discriminatory also violates national and international human rights law.”

The entire report may be read here:

An Assessment of the Long-term Impacts of Forced Relocation from Porur Lake, Chennai

 

Related:

Exclusionary Policies Push Migrants To Cities’ Peripheries

Pushed Aside: Displaced for ‘Development’ in India

14 Political parties, 150 organisations sign charter for ‘liveable cities, not smart cities’

Dalit Battles For Promised Lands Rage Across India

Cutting the Ground: Human rights impact on forcible eviction

On November 29, the Human Land & Rights Network (HLRN) and Information and Resource Centre for the Deprived Urban Communities (IRCDUC) released a collaborative report to present a comprehensive human rights assessment of the living conditions faced by persons evicted in 2006 from Porur Lake, Chennai— one of the earliest and largest eviction drives in the name of “restoration of water bodies” in Tamil Nadu.

hrln

HLRN is an human rights organisation that works on issues related to adequate housing and land, whereas IRCDUC is a policy think tank focused on work related to deprived urban communities.
 

The displacement dilemma

According to HLRN’s 2018 “Forced Evictions in India” report, 2,02,233 people, mainly from the low-income communities, have been forcefully evicted in 2018 across India.

Tamil Nadu is especially notorious for forcibly evicting communities along water bodies, a trend that has only intensified since the 2015 Chennai floods. The public discourse surrounding the issue, however, has been limited to treating the poor as “encroachers.” This notion, then, adds more obstacles in the discussionof their constitutionally guaranteed rights of residing in the locales.

HLRN reported in 2018 that particularly in Chennai, evictions were executed under the guise of “disaster management,”“restoration of water bodies,” and as execution of a Madras High Court order“to take expeditious steps for early removal of encroachments by construction of alternative tenements.”

Interestingly, Venessa Peter of IRCDUC said to Chennai’s DT Next, “The government is removing ordinary people but they do not touch commercial establishments encroaching the waterbodies.”
 

The eviction

For three days since November23, 2006, these 10,700 families who were living in the Porur Lake area were forcibly evicted by the Public Works Department and the District Administration without due processunder the guise of “restoration of water bodies.”

The International Alliance of Inhabitants (IAI) reported that police personnel arrived in large numbers with earth movers and bulldozers to demolish the present settlements in the area. A three-year-old girl fell into the water and died, while two people died of heart attacks.

IAI further reported that the evicted families had no time to remove their valuables from their houses before the demolition, and lost all their household possessions within a few minutes. Some people were not even able to take their children’s certificates.


The report

Titled “Deprivation By Design—An Assessment of the Long-term Impacts of Forced Relocation from Porur Lake, Chennai,” this collaborative report covers findings fromtheir primary research study focused on the long-term human rights implications that the forced evictionshave had on these families.

Out of the approximately 10,700 families evicted, only 4,000 families were provided alternative land in two sites—Collector Nagar and Nallur—are situated over 20 kilometres from Porur Lake.Both resettlement sites are situated in interior and remote locations without adequate access to public transportation, and yet, these resettled families are better off than the remaining 6,700 families evicted from Porur Lake in 2006 did not receive any relief or rehabilitation from the state whatsoever.

As per the report, the study uses the human rights framework to analyse the process of eviction and relocation of 4,000 relocated families, and to assess the housing and living conditions at both sites. 
 

The findings

Here is a brief summary of the report’s findings.

Violation of the Right to Restitution, including Compensation and Resettlement:The 4000 resettled families have not been provided with any restitution as against what they have lost. They don’t have any legal title over the new land, and have only received ‘tokens’ [a piece of paper with a seal of the tehsildar (revenue official)] for the plot of land six days after they were evicted, on 29 November 2006.

Violation of the Human Right to Adequate Housing and Work/Livelihood: The resettlements sites of Collector Nagar and Nallur are in remote locations with no connectivity to the main road. Nallur is located very close to a water body,which is why the resettled families experience flooding during the monsoon season every year. They also report regular encounters with snakes.In Collector Nagar, even 13 years after relocation, people do not have any legal security of tenure over the land that they have been living on for over a decade.

The lack of connectivity further affects the residents’ opportunities to earn livelihoods. Only 16 per cent of men and 30 per cent of women are employed in informal work in and around the locality; the rest continue to commute to locations near Porur Lake for their livelihoods.

Violation of the Human Right to Education: Children’s education has been severely impacted. In Collector Nagar, an AWC was started only 11 years after families moved there, while in Nallur, it took the state 10 years to set up a functional AWC.

Violation of the Human Right to Water and Sanitation:

In Collector Nagar, one common overhead water tank supplies water for only an hour a day. Government water tankers aimed at meeting the drinking water shortfall, only visit the settlement once in two days. Women bear the burden of fetching water for their families, as most households do not have individual water connections.

In Nallur, water tanks were installed only 10 years after relocation. The settlement does not have household water connections; neither does it have adequate drinking water facilities. Women walk to the end of the road to fetch water from a common tap.
 

Conclusion

The recommendations made by HLRN and IRCDUC to the Government of Tamil Nadu include:

  • To ensure the right to adequate housing and security of tenure is protected by developing a state-level human right to adequate housing law, which commits to ending forced evictions and ensures the provision of legal security of tenure without any discrimination.

  • To develop a human rights-based, gender-sensitive, and child-friendly policy on rehabilitation and resettlement, in order to ensure a comprehensive and planned approach that respects the human rights of affected persons and adheres to national and international laws, policies, guidelines, and standards.

  • To ensure that resettlement is provided within a distance of three kilometres from people’s original sites of residence.

  • To announce an inclusive land reservation policy for deprived urban communities. Such a policy should focus on equitable spatial allocation of land for the poor, based on their proportion to the total population.

  • To incorporate human rights standards in law and policy related to housing, land, and resettlement in the state.

As Executive Director of HLRN Shivani Chaudhary, noted, “The tendency of the state to consider low-income marginalized communities as dispensable in its broader agenda of non-inclusive urbanisation, while being discriminatory also violates national and international human rights law.”

The entire report may be read here:

An Assessment of the Long-term Impacts of Forced Relocation from Porur Lake, Chennai

 

Related:

Exclusionary Policies Push Migrants To Cities’ Peripheries

Pushed Aside: Displaced for ‘Development’ in India

14 Political parties, 150 organisations sign charter for ‘liveable cities, not smart cities’

Dalit Battles For Promised Lands Rage Across India

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