PICS | Demolition near Delhi feared leaving 100 000 Indian villagers homeless

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 Demolition drive carried out by the Municipal Corporation of Faridabad on its land in Khori village located in the Aravali belt on July 8, 2021 in Faridabad, India (Photo by Parveen Kumar/Hindustan Times via Getty Images)
Demolition drive carried out by the Municipal Corporation of Faridabad on its land in Khori village located in the Aravali belt on July 8, 2021 in Faridabad, India (Photo by Parveen Kumar/Hindustan Times via Getty Images)
  • An Indian court ordered the removal of trespasser's from the Khori village.
  • The eviction could leave 100 000 people homeless.
  • The homes were built illegally on protected forest land.

Indian authorities began demolishing hundreds of homes in a village on the outskirts of New Delhi on Wednesday, in a move that housing activists said could leave 100 000 people homeless.

India's top court last month ordered the removal of "encroachers including by forcible eviction" from Khori village, which is home to about 10 000 families of informal workers, including street food vendors, cleaners and tuk-tuk drivers.

Their homes were built illegally on protected forest land, which is part of the Aravalli mountain range that stretches nearly 700km through northern and western India.

About 300 homes were razed on Wednesday amid monsoon rains by the municipality of Faridabad district in Haryana state, according to activists at the site, and thousands more are set to be destroyed before the Supreme Court deadline of 19 July.

FARIDABAD, INDIA - JULY 8: Residents break down du
Residents break down during a demolition drive carried out by the Municipal Corporation of Faridabad on its land in Khori village located in the Aravali belt on July 8, 2021 in Faridabad, India. (Photo by Parveen Kumar/Hindustan Times via Getty Images)

"We don't have anywhere to go. We will get drenched here. I have small children," one woman - who was not named - told local news channel NDTV after her home of 15 years was demolished.

Neither district authorities nor local police responded to requests for comment.

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The demolition drive started a day after the state announced a rehabilitation plan that would make residents eligible to live in low-cost flats if they met certain criteria, such as having an annual family income of less than 300 000 rupees.

Under the plan, 2 000 rupees will be given to the residents to rent alternative housing for a period of six months.

Housing campaigners criticised the release of the plan one day before the demolition, and urged the government to conduct a survey to identify beneficiaries, give them ample time to prove their claims, and also link people to welfare schemes for work.

FARIDABAD, INDIA  JUNE 30: Police detaining a woma
Police detaining a woman from among residents demonstrating against the demolition of their homes built on Aravalli land in Khori village, on June 30, 2021 in Faridabad, India. (Photo by Subhash Sharma/Hindustan Times via Getty Images)

"Within 24 hours of just announcing the plan, you destroy the homes? What kind of welfare state is this?," said Nirmal Gorana, member of the Khori Mazdoor Awas Sangharsh Samiti, an organisation representing the interests of residents.

"You cannot uproot them and leave them to die in a pandemic," he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation from Khori.

India's coronavirus caseload of nearly 31 million infections is the world's second-highest behind the United States. The United Nations last year said access to adequate housing was the "front line defence against the Covid-19 outbreak".

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Video footage posted on Twitter by district authorities showed an earthmover bulldozing and demolishing homes, with bricks and corrugated tin roofs crashing down as police in riot gear and residents looked on.

In a similar case, the Supreme Court last September ordered the demolition of tens of thousands of shacks alongside railway tracks in Delhi.

FARIDABAD, INDIA - JULY 8: Security personnel depl
Security personnel deployed during a demolition drive carried out by the Municipal Corporation of Faridabad on its land in Khori village located in the Aravali belt on July 8, 2021 in Faridabad, India. (Photo by Parveen Kumar/Hindustan Times via Getty Images)

Nearly 15 million people in India live under the threat of displacement, according to the Housing and Land Rights Network (HLRN) that compiles an annual record of evictions.

Last year, at least 20 000 people were evicted between 16 March and 31 July according to the HLRN data, despite court orders that banned such actions during lockdowns to contain Covid-19.

"(Forced evictions) result in people being pushed into extreme poverty and as such pose a risk to the right to life," said Choudhary AZ Kabir of the Human Rights Law Network.

"Residents of Khori village are being pushed into destitution."

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