NEW DELHI: At least six homes are destroyed and 30 people forcibly evicted each hour in India as authorities modernise cities and build highways, activists said on Friday, highlighting the urgent need for greater investment in social rental housing.

'Smart Cities' projects and other upgrades were responsible for most evictions, data compiled by the advocacy group Housing and Land Rights Network (HLRN) showed.

Infrastructure and development plans, wildlife conservation efforts and disaster management projects were also to blame.

"The notion that 'beautification' implies removing the poor from cities reflects an alarming prejudice and discrimination against the country's most marginalised populations," said Shivani Chaudhry, executive director of HLRN.

Its data showed about 53,700 homes were destroyed last year by authorities in cities, towns and villages, uprooting at least 260,000 people.

Chaudhry said the true figure was likely far higher, as its data was comprised only of cases reported to it. The evictions are the highest recorded by HLRN since it began collecting information in 2015, she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

"Homes of the urban poor continue to be considered illegal encroachments and are demolished without any consideration that people have been living (there) for decades ... and possess documents that validate their legality and proof of residence."

Officials at India's housing ministry could not be reached for comment on Friday. There is no official data on evictions.

An official with the Delhi Development Authority said the city abided by the law.