Shri Jagadish Shettar
Chief Minister of Karnataka
Room No. 323
Bangalore – 560001
I am William Nicholas Gomes, Human Rights Ambassador for Salem-News.com.
I have learned from Slum Jagathu, Bangalore, that Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) brutally evicted over 5,000 slum dwellers by demolishing 1,200 houses in Koramangala colony, Bangalore from 18 to 21 January 2013.
A police force consisting of around 500 police men and women, along with BBMP officials and six bulldozers demolished 1,200 homes and tin sheds that were built at the site more than 11 years ago. Over 5,000 people including 1,200 women and 2,000 children were affected by this action.
I am shocked to learn that the police used sticks to beat men and women who resisted the evictions, and that even children and senior citizens were not spared. Police arbitrarily detained seven residents (five women and two men), and released them in the evening of that day.
I am concerned about reports of people who have not been able to find any alternative place to stay being forced to spend days and nights out in the open. The conditions of these people are abysmal, as they do not have any shelter or access to basic services, including drinking water sanitation and toilets. Students are not able to go to schools and colleges, and many fear losing their livelihoods if they move away from the Koramangala neighborhood. The situation presents a grave humanitarian crisis, and the health of the residents is at risk.
In the aftermath of the evictions, news on illnesses and even death has already been reported. Rosemary (60) one of the thousands rendered homeless by the Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike’s recent demolition drive at Koramangala, died on 21 January after spending nearly three days out in the open. Her daughter says the death was a direct consequence of the demolition. “She had barely eaten anything in the last few days. All she did was cry. The cold [out in the open] was unbearable. She was trembling and was constantly complaining about the cold,” she said.
Even after a week of the demolition, BBMP has failed to provide temporary rehabilitation for the affected persons. These actions are an infringement of the fundamental rights of the residents of Koramangala as the government has failed to abide by its constitutional obligations to guarantee the “right to housing” and “right to life and livelihood” to its citizens.
Violations of National and International Human Rights Law:
The demolition in Koramangala is a blatant violation of the human right to adequate housing. These forced evictions without adequate rehabilitation violate the affected people’s fundamental right to life and livelihood as enshrined in Article 21 of the Indian Constitution. Reaffirming the principle of indivisibility of all human rights, the fundamental right to life encompasses the right to live with human dignity. Furthermore, Article 14 of the Constitution of India guarantees equal protection under law.
Despite the fact that 99% of the urban housing shortage of 18.7 million in India pertains to the Economically Weaker Sections (EWS) and Low-Income Groups (LIG), the government demolished houses in Koramangala without providing alternative sites for rehabilitation. By failing to provide any form of temporary/permanent housing for the poor who have been living in Koramangala for more than 11 years, the evictions and the judgment of the High Court of Karnataka apart from violating international and national law also contradict the National Urban Housing and Habitat Policy, 2007, which aims at providing “affordable housing for all” and promoting sustainable development of habitat in the country with a view to ensuring equitable supply of land, shelter and services.
The large-scale demolitions in Koramangala also contravene the provisions of Rajiv Awaas Yojana and the National Resettlement and Rehabilitation Policy, 2007. Rajiv Awaas Yojana aims at promoting in situ upgrading of slums and providing security of tenure for slum dwellers. The National Resettlement and Rehabilitation Policy, 2007 seeks to protect the interests of land owners and others, such as tenants, the landless, agricultural and nonagricultural laborers, artisans, and others whose livelihood depends on land which is sought for “developmental” activities.
By these evictions, the Indian authorities, including the local authorities, have breached their treaty obligations under, inter alia, Articles 2, 11, 12, 13 and 15 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), to which India acceded on 10 July 1979. The State has been derelict in its obligations, as elaborated in the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights General Comments No. 4 on the right to adequate housing and No. 7 on forced evictions. The State of India also has contravened its obligations under Articles 16, 27 and 39 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), to which it acceded on 11 December 1992, and Article 14 of the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDaW), which it ratified on 9 July 1993.
The UN Commission on Human Rights (in 1993) recognized that forced evictions constitute a “gross violation of human rights, in particular, the right to adequate housing.” The UN Basic Principles and Guidelines on Development-based Evictions and Displacement (2007) stipulate that evictions must only be carried out in “exceptional circumstances” and in accordance with international law and human rights standards. They present operational guidelines for States to follow before, during and after evictions. In Koramangala, the local government did not follow due process. Officials did not provide any notice of the demolition to the slum dwellers; neither was any consultation carried out with them. During the eviction process, police officials brutally beat up, arrested and detained those who resisted. The conduct of BBMP and the police in the Koramangala eviction blatantly violates international law, standards and guidelines.
The Supreme Court of India, in several judgments, has held that the right to adequate housing is a fundamental human right emanating from the right to life protected by Article 21 of the Constitution (“No person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to procedure established by law”). There have been several important court judgments that have clearly established the relation between the right to housing and the right to life as guaranteed by Article 21. In the case of Chameli Singh and Others vs. State of Uttar Pradesh (1996), the Court has given a clear understanding of the right to life by stating that the “Right to life guaranteed in any civilized society implies the right to food, water, decent environment, education, medical care and shelter.”
The actions against the people of Koramangala constitute a violation of their basic human rights to life, security, health, work, and adequate housing; i.e., the right of all women, men and children to gain and sustain a secure place to live in peace and dignity. The authorities have especially violated people’s entitlements to security of tenure and freedom from forced evictions; access to, and benefit from public goods and services; information, capacity and capacity building; participation, peaceful assembly and self-expression; rights to resettlement, rehabilitation and adequate compensation (i.e., reparations) for violations and losses; and physical security and privacy.
I am deeply concerned about the plight of the evicted families who are currently on the streets without any adequate housing and nowhere to go. I await your humane and timely intervention to restore the violated human rights of the affected.
I urge you to respect India’s obligations under national and international law to respect, protect, promote and fulfill the human right to adequate housing by:
Providing immediate and adequate rehabilitation, including housing, water, food and security, to all evicted families at the same site or at least in the same area, as per the UN Basic Principles and Guidelines on Development-based Evictions and Displacement;
Granting compensation to all victims for injuries caused to them and for loss and damage to their personal property and possessions/ belongings;
Conducting an independent investigation/ inquiry into the project and the demolition;
Taking action against those officials responsible for causing violence, injury to residents and damage to property;
Building adequate houses for all original allottees and current residents at the same site;
Implementing India’s national and international legal obligations and upholding judgments of the Honourable Supreme Court of India.
Thank you in advance for your attention to this serious matter. I look forward to hearing from you about your remedial actions.
William Nicholas Gomes
Human Rights Ambassador for Salem-News.com