Geneva: The Smart City scheme of Government of India might broaden the gap between the rich and poorer cities with an overreliance on technology possibly resulting in an unaffordable housing for the poor, a United Nations expert says in a report to the current UN Human Rights Council (HRC) session.
"Concern was also expressed that modernising only parts of cities, or that a particular focus on technological responses, would result in the construction of unaffordable housing or infrastructure that is not targeted at the poorest," Leilani Farha, a UN special rapporteur for adequate housing as a component of the right to an adequate standard of living, and on the right to non-discrimination in this context, says in her report to the 34th session of the HRC.
Farha was on a 12-day tour to New Delhi, Mumbai and Bengaluru in April 2016.
In a general sense, both state and central governments make the very visible homeless population as relatively invisible and show insufficient interest in addressing their immediate needs.
Homeless people are never considered candidates for long-term housing options, such as through the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (PMAY) scheme. However, she added that one of the most progressive elements of the programme is that it is based on the recognition that, as far as possible, slum rehabilitation should occur in situ.
There are barriers to accessing PMAY and similar state-sponsored in situ rehabilitation programmes, including the requirement to provide proof of residency that can be difficult to meet.
"The special rapporteur was told by developers that the barriers coupled with affordability issues have resulted in approximately 20 percent of informal settlement residents being unable to access the scheme," the report says.
Between 2001 and 2011, the number of informal settlements in India increased by over 37 percent.
The UN expert was “surprised” that many government officials and members of the judiciary consider residents of informal settlements to be living there illegally stigmatising them as "encroachers" or "occupiers" without recognising the important services they provide.
"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 says.
Genuine consultation with those affected is seldom carried out while access to forced evictions "appears to be scant" in India — all of this is contrary to international human rights law.