The United Nation’s Special Rapporteur on the right to adequate housing Monday raised concerns over the eviction of around 250,000 people living in ‘jhuggi-jhopris’ (shacks) along a 140-km stretch of railway tracks in Delhi “without any prior consultation with those affected.”
On 31 August, the Supreme Court issued an eviction order for around 48,000 households living near the railway tracks in the capital, giving the occupants three months to leave.
“None of those affected appeared to have been consulted or heard by the Court beforehand,” said Balakrishnan Rajagopal, the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to adequate housing.
Expressing concern over the apex court’s earlier ruling that no one should be allowed to seek to overturn the eviction order, Rajagopal said, “This amounts to a full-fledged denial of justice for the low-income people living along the railway tracks.” He further said, “If this is maintained, India will squarely violate article 2.3 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights containing the core human rights principle that everyone can seek judicial relief against any decision she or he considered arbitrary.”
The Special Rapporteur has contacted the central government seeking clarification on certain issues related to the eviction and also requested that his concerns be shared with the Supreme Court. Rajagopal also called on the top court to reconsider the case in light of India’s international human rights obligations.
He said that any eviction that results in homelessness is a serious violation of human rights and a breach of India’s obligations under the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.
Rajagopal welcomed a second ruling by the Supreme Court to temporarily halt the eviction order. However, he said that the four weeks provided by the court would be insufficient to develop any reasonable rehabilitation or relocation plan that meets international law standards while involving such a large number of households.
“While the relocation of some residents living in very close proximity to a railway track may be needed to protect them from potential railway accidents, any such eviction would only be compatible with international human rights law after a relocation plan is developed in consultation with the affected households and after alternative land or housing is made available to them in proximity to their current place of residence,” said Rajagopal, adding that such relocation measures should be taken only after the pandemic is brought under control or otherwise, it may pose health risk to those involved.
The AAP government in Delhi has also opposed the eviction of the slum dwellers and exploring options to stall the process until a rehabilitation procedure is chalked out.