Warning on dire situation of New Delhi's homeless persons - UN expert on adequate housing

GENEVA (19 January 2010 ) - The UN Special Rapporteur on the right to adequate housing, Ms. Raquel Rolnik, expressed her concern about the homeless persons that have died from cold recently in New Delhi and the risk to the lives of many others given the harsh weather and insufficient adequate shelters.

Ms Rolnik also drew attention to the growing number of homeless persons in the Indian capital and the demolitions of homeless shelters, stressing that the preparation for the 2010 Commonwealth Games seems to be "one of the factors behind the closing down of a number of shelters." In the last month demolitions and evictions of homeless from places they used as shelters have been conducted by public authorities despite the cold weather.

"The lives of hundreds of homeless people in India are at risk as temperatures near zero degrees," warned the Special Rapporteur. Ten homeless persons have already died from cold in the last month in New Delhi. In northern India, around a hundred homeless persons have reportedly died in the states of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar due to the freezing cold that affected the region over the last few weeks.

"While the homeless population has been growing since 2007," said Ms. Rolnik, "the number of homeless shelters in New Delhi has recently been reduced from 46 to 24, in disregard of the Delhi Master Plan 2001 and the Delhi Municipal Corporation Act 1957."

On 22 December 2009, the Municipal Corporation of Delhi demolished a temporary night shelter at Pusa Road, leaving 250 homeless people without shelter, allegedly linked to the death from cold of two persons. Despite the interim measures adopted by the Delhi High Court on 7 January 2010 requesting the immediate restoration of the homeless shelter and the protection of the displaced families, the Municipal Corporation of Delhi has not yet assisted them. A further 400 people were evicted on January 2010 from an area they were using as shelter at Pul Mitahi, Sadar Bazaar, where many Commonwealth Games construction workers and Dalit families were living.

The Special Rapporteur "welcomes the interim order adopted by the Deli High Court and urges the authorities to comply with the latter and in this framework to halt the demolition of homeless shelters, to provide immediate assistance and adequate shelter to the affected persons and not to evict homeless persons in the winter, on humanitarian grounds."

Raquel Rolnik (Brazil) was appointed as 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 by the United Nations Human Rights Council, in May 2008. As Special Rapporteur, she is independent from any government or organization and serves in her individual capacity. An architect and urban planner, Rolnik has extensive experience in the area of housing and urban policies.