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In April 2016 UN Special Raporteur Leilani Farha visited India. Spending two weeks in India, Leilani met with government officials, judges, civil society, community members and other stakeholders. She released a preliminary report at the conclusion of the trip. Here is a snapshot of her experience.

India is marked by stark contrasts: extreme poverty and deprivation in the face of extreme wealth, a gap which is steadily growing and overtly visible. Approximately 65-70 million people live in slums in conditions that are often inhumane, and an affront to human dignity.

While the speed of urbanization has been slower than in other emerging economies, India has on its horizon large scale urbanization for at least the next decade. During the period 2010-15, the urban population has grown at a steady 2.4% annual average, while the rural average is just 0.7 annually, indicating the trend towards migration and forced displacement to urban and peri-urban centers.

India is also a flourishing economy, with estimates of real GDP growth rate at over 7.3 per cent for 2016. Some predict that India’s GDP will continue to grow by over 7 per cent annually over the next decade. In other words, in terms of its maximum of available resources, India has the economic capacity to ensure the right to adequate housing is enjoyed by the most marginalized and vulnerable groups.

Leilani Farha noted a number of positive initiatives aimed at addressing these conditions, including a new national housing scheme, and Constitutional protection for the right to housing through the right to life provisions. At the same time, she noted a number of issues of grave concern requiring immediate attention, including entrenched discrimination and social exclusion of particularly vulnerable groups; urban homelessness; ongoing forced evictions; landlessness and displacement in rural areas; and significant barriers to access to justice.

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