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UN report: Modi's "affordable" housing scheme financially inaccessible for informal settlements of urban India

By Our Representative
A United Nations report has taken strong exception to lack of a “national legislation” which recognizes housing as a human right in India, adding, in India there exist “sizeable gaps in infrastructure and essential services required for the enjoyment of the right to adequate housing”, with state-run housing schemes lacking perspective.
Prepared for the 34th session of the Human Rights Council, which began on February 27 and ends on March 24, the “Report of the Special Rapporteur on adequate housing” especially takes exception to the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana for failing to take note of “the affordability" factor, especially for those living in informal settlements.
It says, the credit-based subsidies scheme, which provide lower interest rates than the market rate (6.5 per cent as opposed to 10 per cent average at market level), is proving to be “financially inaccessible.”
.“That would result in residents having to stay in transition camps longer than originally expected. The conditions in the camps are not much better than in informal settlements, as they are meant to be temporary at best”, the report underlines.
In fact, say the report, some of the units that are being offered are “not more than 30 square metres, regardless of family size”, adding, even some developers agreed that “the units are far too small for families with five to eight members, the average size of many informal settlers’ households.”
“Overcrowding, it is feared, will quickly lead to deterioration in the rehabilitation sites”, the report says, adding, “The scheme is open only to those who can prove they have resided in the listed informal settlement since before the cut-off date, essentially disqualifying new arrivals.”
“Moreover, even for those who have resided there for some time, the requirements for proof of residency can be difficult to meet, given the barriers to acquiring adequate and necessary documentation, such as voter identification card, identity cards or ration cards for social benefits to support residency claims”, says the report.
The report estimates that there are 13.75 million households (between 60 and 70 million people) in urban areas who are “compelled to live in extremely inadequate housing conditions in informal settlements.”
Quoting 2015 figures, thanks to these informal settlements, the report says, 44 per cent of the urban areas do not have piped water, 37 per cent of them do not have proper sanitation facilities, and 10 per cent depend on open defecation.
“Informal settlements are referred to as ‘slums’ in official discourse”, the report says, expressing surprise that “many government officials and members of the judiciary consider residents of informal settlements to be living there illegally, and often stigmatize them as ‘encroachers’ or ‘occupiers’.”
“Many residents of informal settlements lack security of tenure, one of the cornerstones of the right to adequate housing”, the report says, adding, “Forced evictions, displacement and demolitions are not uncommon practices, used by the central Government in some states to advance the economic development agenda of the country.”
The report regrets, “National data on the number of households evicted each year is not collected by either level of government”, though adding, “Information collected by civil society suggests that recourse to eviction is extensive, showing that between 2010 and 2015, close to 250,000 people in urban areas were forcibly evicted from their homes.”
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