The United Nations Special Rapporteur on adequate housing has criticised India for demolishing slums in Mumbai and New Delhi in his report submitted at the ongoing 61st session of the UN Commission on Human Rights in Geneva, Switzerland.
Miloon Kothari presented an overall situation of slums across the world. In his report, he specially mentioned the poor condition of slums and people living in shanty towns in India, and said it a 'matter of concern'.
Countries and voluntary groups from across the world are debating human rights issues during the session. Adequate housing is considered part of the human rights of citizens.
Kothari stated that in Mumbai 80,000 homes were demolished between December 2004 and January 2005, rendering 300,000 people homeless. For majority of those evicted there was no advance notice, the evictions were violently carried out and their belongings damaged. Those evicted were not even offered alternative accommodation.
He said, "The chief minister (Vilasrao Deshmukh) explained these brutal demolitions as the only way to create a world-class city."
Coming down heavily on the Indian legal system, the special rapporteur noted with concern the impact of laws that directly or indirectly criminalised homelessness.
According to the UN, in India, 40 per cent of the total urban population is classified as poor. Children and families of the urban poor often live in slums and squatter communities under intolerable and subhuman conditions.
Millions of urban and rural dwellers around the world live in fear of eviction. The impact of eviction on children and women are particularly devastating.
The special rapporteur, on July 12, 2004, in a letter of allegation sent to the Indian government asked about reports of large-scale demolitions of slum dwellings and forced evictions allegedly undertaken by the Municipal Corporation of Delhi and the Delhi Development Authority since February 2004 in the Yamuna Pushta area.
According to reports from civil society groups, a fire gutted about 2,000 slum dwellings on April 18, 2004 in the area.
On September 6, 2004, the Government of India, replying to the letter, said the slum clusters encroaching upon the Yamuna river bed were cleared as per the directions of the high court of Delhi issued in March 2003. The government said the evicted people had been compensated.
The special rapporteur said there was an urgent need to develop a comprehensive policy and strategy to address the housing rights of the poorest segments of society, including the homeless.
He regretted that at the time of the finalisation of his report, no reply to the communication was received from the Indian government.
The UN also expressed concern regarding the eviction of people and destruction of villages affected by the Narmada and Sardar Sarovar dams.