National Forum for Housing Rights’ Launched
At a press conference held inNew Delhion the occasion of World Habitat Day – celebrated on the first Monday of October every year – the National Forum for Housing Rights (NFHR) was officially launched. This event was accompanied by simultaneous press meets launching NFHR in the cities of Vishakapatnam,Allahabad, Mumbai,IndoreandLucknow. Indu Prakash Singh, convenor of NFHR and head of the urban poverty programme at Indo- Global Social Service Society, explained that NFHR is a coalition of organizations, networks, institutions, social movements and individuals across India committed to working at multiple levels to promote the respect, protection and fulfilment of the human right to adequate housing and related rights, including protection against forced evictions, especially for the most marginalised.
“Concerned that the situation of housing and living conditions inIndiahas been worsening and the number of homeless and those living in adverse conditions continues to rise, and given the lack of adequate government response, housing rights activists and organisations acrossIndiafelt the need to come together and form a strong national campaign,” he said.
Bipin Rai, co-convenor NFHR, provided a brief history of the housing rights movement inIndiaand the context for the launch of NFHR. The housing rights movement inIndiahas been active for the last 30 years. Although there have been several challenges, the movement has continued in different forms and at various fronts. In 1986, the National Campaign for Housing Rights was launched, which worked effectively for around eight years. From 1994 until 2000, a number of state level campaigns were active inIndia. From 2000-05, a new alliance called the National Forum for Housing Rights (NFHR) worked across urban India towards ensuring “Housing for All.”
During the years 2005-11, though several organisations, networks and movements continued working on different dimensions of housing rights acrossIndia, and state level housing rights campaigns continued, they were not organised as one national movement. In 2010–11, at several meetings, the need for reviving NFHR was felt and articulated. At a national meeting held inIndorein August 2012, NFHR was formally constituted again with seven co-convenors from different parts ofIndiaassuming responsibility for different tasks. On 1 October 2012, which is World Habitat Day, NFHR is being publicly launched with the mandate to build an inclusive and participatory national movement committed to promoting the realisation of housing rights.
Shivani Chaudhry, associate director of Housing and Land Rights Network and co-convenor NFHR, stated that housing is a human right guaranteed in international law and upheld in numerous judgements of the Honourable Supreme Court of India and several High Courts. Despite this, millions of people inIndiado not have access to adequate housing, basic services and livelihood options. It is a matter of great shame and distress that more than half ofIndia’s urban population lives and works without security of tenure, and in extremely inadequate housing and living conditions.
Amita Joseph from Business and Community Foundation, and Shahri Adhikar Manch: Begharon Ke Saath drew attention to the national urban housing shortage at the end of the Eleventh Five-Year Plan, which was estimated to be 26.53 million, 99% of which was for Economically Weaker Sections and Low Income Groups. Government policies and programmes like Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JnNURM) are further pushing the urban poor towards the fringes, where adequate housing, basic amenities and livelihood options are not available. She drew attention to the issue of regularisation of settlements inDelhicalling for legal recognition and provision of basic services in slums and informal settlements.
Usha Ramanathan, a legal researcher, while supporting the launch of NFHR, drew attention to regressive laws that impede the realisation of housing and land rights inIndia. She said housing is central to the realisation of other rights. NFHR will monitor developments of national importance with regard to housing and land issues, including the land acquisition and resettlement bill, Rajiv Awas Yojana and JnNURM.
Members announced that NFHR will initially focus on the following five thematic areas of work through research, publication, information dissemination, advocacy and strategic campaigns: Homelessness; Forced Evictions; Security of Tenure; In situ upgradation; and, Resettlement and Rehabilitation.
NFHR will also use the ‘right to the city’ framework to promote equitable and inclusive urban development and housing policies. Over the next year, NFHR will organise state consultations and work to expand its membership as well as develop its position and strategy on the above issues.
For more information please contact:
Indu Prakash Singh (99113 62925), Bipin Rai (9999046469),
Shivani Chaudhry (9818 205234) or
NFHR Secretariat, 28, Institutional Area, Lodhi Road, New Delhi-110003