The Housing and Land Rights Network’s (HLRN) latest report on evictions indicates a doubling of government-led housing demolitions and evictions for slum clearance and infrastructure projects in 2023. House demolitions for slum clearance increased from 29,764 in 2022 to 60,486 in 2023, while demolitions for infrastructure projects rose from 13,870 in 2021 to 40,067 in 2023 — surging by 103 per cent and 188 per cent, respectively.

The American Sociological Association’s journal states that the primary reasons for housing evictions in India are neoliberal in nature. The logic and practices of capital accumulation, including the promotion of development, efforts to make cities world-class under pressure from urban elites, and the influence of global consulting firms and real estate developers contribute to an increase in evictions in the global south, including India.

Abhishek Malhotra, Assistant Professor of Economics at the University of Delhi, says that though slums are being demolished, “the government is providing housing facilities in both urban and rural spaces under the PM Awas Yojna, targeting a population that lacks proper housing facilities in India”.

The HLRN data indicates a rise in the annual number of house demolitions and evictions. In 2017, there were around 53,700 house demolitions, resulting in the eviction of 2.6 lakh people. By 2023, house demolitions increased to 1.07 lakh, leading to the eviction of around 5.15 lakh people, of whom 2.78 lakh, or 54 per cent, were in capital Delhi.

A significant number of evictions is supported by court orders. In 2022, nearly 33,360 persons were evicted due to court orders, accounting for 15 per cent of total evictions. In 2023, court orders were involved in the case of 49 per cent of the 2.5 lakh persons evicted. The report indicates that only 28 per cent of those evicted had received a resettlement.

On the reason for so many court-backed evictions and the lack of compensation, Akash Jha, president of the ‘Institute of Town Planners India’, says, “There are two categories of slums: notified slums and unnotified slums. For infrastructure purposes or slum rehabilitation in notified slums, the government has a plan to provide proper compensation. However, for unnotified slums, the government is not bound to provide compensation, and there’s no need for a court order, as the term “unnotified” is not properly defined in Indian law under its township planning.”

Jha added, “The people affected by the eviction programme, upon the request of the government departments concerned, are provided temporary accommodation under the ‘project-affected persons’ programme by town planners.” Those affected by the construction of dams, roads, and power plants are usually able to negotiate for a better compensation, he says.