INDIA: Their house demolished, poor family exposed to the elements

ASIAN HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION – HUNGER ALERT PROGRAMME

Hunger Alert Case: AHRC-HAC-002-2016

30 September 2016
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INDIA: Their house demolished, poor family exposed to the elements

ISSUES: Right to food; inhuman and degrading treatment; corruption; impunity; rule of law, forced evictions.
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Dear Friends,

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has received information from local activists Anuj Shree Jaiswal and Israr Mohammad Issu regarding the demolition of the house of a very poor family in Pipariya, Madhya Pradesh. The AHRC has also learnt that the family, which includes a nine-year-old girl child, has since been forced to sleep out in the open in the rainy season, rendering the family vulnerable to disease and hunger. The AHRC demands immediate intervention and urges the authorities to rehabilitate the family at the earliest.

CASE NARRATIVE:

Gulab Singh, son of Hari Singh, is a very poor resident of Kachhiyana Mohalla of Village Panchayat Piprondh in Katni District of Madhya Pradesh. Mr. Singh holds a below poverty line ration card entitling him to various welfare schemes of the local and Union government that are earmarked for the poor. Along with his wife and nine-year old daughter, he was residing in a house built on government land, which now happens to be on the proposed National Highway-7 (NH7).

Flouting all rules set out for demolition drives, the local civic authorities demolished Gulab Singh’s house to make way for the NH7, on 21 September 2016. Neither did they put up a notice informing the family about the imminent demolition, nor did they offer any compensation, despite Gulab Singh being on the list of identified beneficiaries to be compensated. The demolition drive forced Mr. Singh and his family to sleep out in the open in the rainy season and thus has exposed them to both hunger and disease. The condition of the girl child is the worst, as she has a school to attend and is forced to sleeping on the road in front of the school and is thus being subject to ridicule and taunts from her schoolmates

The administration allegedly refused to intervene even after local activists advocated for Gulab Singh and his family. Incensed, the activists made a video of the pitiable conditions the family is condemned to live in and started a social media campaign for compensation for and rehabilitation of the family. When contacted by the activists, the District Collector promised the activists that Rupees 70,000, the compensation amount due to the family, as per the administration’s own list, which the AHRC is in possession of, will be disbursed to the family within a week. The Sub Division Magistrate, however, allegedly threatened the activists and the family to stop the campaign for justice or be ready to face the consequences.

The demolition of the family’s house also goes in contravention to many decisions of the Supreme Court of India, the most important being that of the 7-judge Constitution Bench in Olga Tellis vs. Bombay Municipal Corporation. The Bench had observed in the case that the right to life guaranteed by Article 21 of the Constitution included the right to livelihood, and directed the authorities to provide alternative land to the ‘illegal’ Jhuggi Jhupodi (JJ) squatters.

Different courts in India have followed the precedent and recognised the rights of the poor, for example the High Court of Delhi’s verdict in Sudama Singh & Others vs. Government of Delhi on 11 February 2010.

The judgment states:

“This Court would like to emphasise that the context of the MPD, jhuggi dwellers are not to be treated as ‘secondary’ citizens [sic]. They are entitled to no less an access to basic survival needs as any other citizen. It is the State’s constitutional and statutory obligation to ensure that if the jhuggi dweller is forcibly evicted and relocated, such jhuggi dweller is not worse off. The relocation has to be a meaningful exercise consistent with the rights to life, livelihood and dignity of such jhuggi dweller. (Writ Petitions (Civil) Nos. 8904/2009, 7735/2007, 7317/2009 and 9246/2009)

Further, and in addition to flouting verdicts of the Indian Judiciary, such demolitions go against specific obligations of international human rights instruments to which India is signatory. Such demolitions are conducted largely in violation of Article 11(1) of the International Covenant on Economic Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), which promises adequate standard of living for a person and their family, including adequate food, clothing, and housing. Such evictions also violate 17(1) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which offers protection from arbitrary or unlawful interference to a person’s privacy, family, or home, among other things.

General Comment No. 4 of the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights further stresses that there should be “legal security of tenure including legal protection against forced evictions”, while determining “adequacy” of housing. International legal opinion also holds the right to adequate housing as a justiciable and enforceable right, as acknowledged by the Special Rapporteur in a report to the 58th Session of the Commission (E/CN.4/2002/59).

SUGGESTED ACTION:

Please write to the authorities mentioned below demanding immediate intervention into the issue and seek help for the family. You may also demand that the government keep a vigil on such actions that threaten the livelihood and food security of marginalised sections in the country.

The AHRC is writing separate letter to the UN Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights and UN Special Rapporteur on Adequate Housing as a Component of the Right to an Adequate Standard of Living, and on the Right to Non-Discrimination in this Context as well.

To support this case, please click here:

SAMPLE LETTER:

Dear __________,

INDIA: Their house demolished, poor family exposed to the elements

Name of the victims: Gulab Singh, his wife, and daughter
Alleged Perpetrators: District administration of Katni
Date and Time of the incident: from 21 September 2016 to present
Place of incident: Piprondh Village in Katni District, Madhya Pradesh

I am writing to express my concern over the demolition of the house of a very poor family in Piprondh Village of Katni District in Madhya Pradesh. I am also deeply aggrieved to learn about the trauma the nine-year-old girl child must have undergone because of the demolition.

Gulab Singh, son of Hari Singh, is a very poor resident of Kachhiyana Mohalla of Village Panchayat Piprondh in Katni District of Madhya Pradesh. Mr. Singh holds a below poverty line ration card entitling him to various welfare schemes of the local and Union government that are earmarked for the poor. Along with his wife and nine-year old daughter, he was residing in a house built on government land, which now happens to be on the proposed National Highway-7 (NH7).

Flouting all rules set out for demolition drives, the local civic authorities demolished Gulab Singh’s house to make way for the NH7, on 21 September 2016. Neither did they put up a notice informing the family about the imminent demolition, nor did they offer any compensation, despite Gulab Singh being on the list of identified beneficiaries to be compensated. The demolition drive forced Mr. Singh and his family to sleep out in the open in the rainy season and thus has exposed them to both hunger and disease. The condition of the girl child is the worst, as she has a school to attend and is forced to sleeping on the road in front of the school and is thus being subject to ridicule and taunts from her schoolmates

The administration allegedly refused to intervene even after local activists advocated for Gulab Singh and his family. Incensed, the activists made a video of the pitiable conditions the family is condemned to live in and started a social media campaign for compensation for and rehabilitation of the family. When contacted by the activists, the District Collector promised the activists that Rupees 70,000, the compensation amount due to the family, as per the administration’s own list, which the AHRC is in possession of, will be disbursed to the family within a week. The Sub Division Magistrate, however, allegedly threatened the activists and the family to stop the campaign for justice or be ready to face the consequences.

The demolition of the family’s house also goes in contravention to many decisions of the Supreme Court of India, the most important being that of the 7-judge Constitution Bench in Olga Tellis vs. Bombay Municipal Corporation. The Bench had observed in the case that the right to life guaranteed by Article 21 of the Constitution included the right to livelihood, and directed the authorities to provide alternative land to the ‘illegal’ Jhuggi Jhupodi (JJ) squatters.

Different courts in India have followed the precedent and recognised the rights of the poor, for example the High Court of Delhi’s verdict in Sudama Singh & Others vs. Government of Delhi on 11 February 2010.

The judgment states:

“This Court would like to emphasise that the context of the MPD, jhuggi dwellers are not to be treated as ‘secondary’ citizens [sic]. They are entitled to no less an access to basic survival needs as any other citizen. It is the State’s constitutional and statutory obligation to ensure that if the jhuggi dweller is forcibly evicted and relocated, such jhuggi dweller is not worse off. The relocation has to be a meaningful exercise consistent with the rights to life, livelihood and dignity of such jhuggi dweller. (Writ Petitions (Civil) Nos. 8904/2009, 7735/2007, 7317/2009 and 9246/2009)

Further, and in addition to flouting verdicts of the Indian Judiciary, such demolitions go against specific obligations of international human rights instruments to which India is signatory. Such demolitions are conducted largely in violation of Article 11(1) of the International Covenant on Economic Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), which promises adequate standard of living for a person and their family, including adequate food, clothing, and housing. Such evictions also violate 17(1) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which offers protection from arbitrary or unlawful interference to a person’s privacy, family, or home, among other things.

General Comment No. 4 of the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights further stresses that there should be “legal security of tenure including legal protection against forced evictions”, while determining “adequacy” of housing. International legal opinion also holds the right to adequate housing as a justiciable and enforceable right, as acknowledged by the Special Rapporteur in a report to the 58th Session of the Commission (E/CN.4/2002/59).

It is in this context that I urge you to ensure that

1. The family is immediately rehabilitated and provided compensation;

2. The girl child is provided with all help to enable her deal with the trauma;

3. An enquiry is conducted to ascertain those responsible and prosecutions initiated;

4. No eviction/demolition drives are carried out in any form without having a legal framework for upholding housing rights and ensuring dignity of the affected families.

.

Sincerely,
_______

PLEASE SEND YOUR LETTERS TO:

1. Justice H.L. Dattu, Chairperson
National Human Rights Commsion
Manav Adhikar Bhawan
Block-C, G.P.O. Complex, INA
New Delhi-110023
INDIA
Email:cr.nhrc@nic.in

2. Ms. Stuti Kacker
Chairperson
National Commission for the Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR)
5th Floor, Chnadralok Building, Janpath,
New Delhi
INDIA
Fax: +91 11 23731584
E-mail: ncpcr.india@gmail.com

3. Ms Maneka Gandhi
Minister of Women & Child Development
14, Ashoka Road,
New Delhi -110 001
INDIA
Fax: +9111 23387384
Email: min-wcd@nic.in

4. Shri Shivraj Singh Chouhan
Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh
Secretariat, Bhopal
Madhya Pradesh
INDIA
Fax: +91 755 2441781
Email:cm@mp.nic.in

5. Shri Anthony JC DeSa
Chief Secretary,
Government of Madhya Pradesh,
Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh,
INDIA.
Fax: +91 755 2441751; 2441521
Email: cs@mp.nic.in

6. Vishesh Garhpale
Collector & District Magistrate
Collectorate Katni, Madhya Pradesh
Fax : +917622-222266
Email: dmkatni@nic.in

Hunger Alerts Programme
Right to Food Programme (foodjustice@ahrc.asia)
Asian Human Rights Commission (ua@ahrc.asia)

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