‘Forcible eviction of urban poor will lead to greater poverty’

Dr. Balakrishnan Rajagopal

Dr. Balakrishnan Rajagopal

The authorities in India, instead of seeking to evict a large number of the urban poor before implementing development projects, can adopt a new kind of social compact with the community concerned and real estate developers, says Balakrishnan Rajagopal, an expert in displacement and Professor of Law and Development at the Department of Urban Studies and Planning, MIT, United States.

Referring to examples in Colombia and Argentina where local governments came together with private real estate developers and the respective communities for improving housing for slum dwellers, Prof. Rajagopal told The Hindu on Saturday that under such an arrangement, the urban poor were provided with better houses at the same place where they were living earlier while a portion of the land was released for re-development. This would be a “win-win” situation for all. “What is important here is good faith and earning trust of the urban poor,” he said, calling upon the authorities to shed their “overbearing attitude” towards the poor.

Forcible displacement due to development pressures was “disruptive socially” and it would lead to a greater degree of poverty. “If India is concerned about becoming richer, wealthier and more developed, it should not make its citizens poorer,” explained Prof. Rajagopal, who is founder of the Displacement Research and Action Network at MIT, adding that conflict and environmental factors too caused displacement.

Resettlement policy

Contending that the country did not have a resettlement policy, he called for a separate law on evictions on the lines of one in South Africa. “There is a better legal framework there to deal with evictions,” he pointed out.

In the absence of a law on evictions, the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013, should be amended to include provisions stipulating “dos and don’ts” for displacement and providing a framework to deal with different types of displacement.

Prof. Rajagopal, who is here as part of an ongoing study on displacements in Tamil Nadu and Kerala, said the study began with New Delhi to cover the impact of displacement of people which happened in the lead up to the Commonwealth Games in 2010. It was originally extended to Chennai for the purpose of comparison and now to the central parts of Kerala in the light of the 2018 floods.

“Societal response to natural disasters is much more robust in Kerala than in Tamil Nadu. It is because of this factor that Kerala has got more capacity and resources to deal with such situations than Tamil Nadu, where there is over-reliance on the State to deliver,” he said, adding that the focus of the study on the two States covered developmental justification and environmental risks.

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Printable version | Aug 17, 2022 10:32:15 pm |