Subhradipta Sarkar, Assistant Professor of Law from ITM University Law School, Gurgaon writes on the right to adequate housing in post-disaster situations in India.


Disasters render millions homeless and hence right to housing (or shelter) emerges extremely important in post disaster scenario. In fact, IDMC data reflects that the number of people displaced by natural disasters has multiplied in the recent years exceeding the number displaced by armed conflict. Yet the victims of disasters rendered homeless or forced to migrate have received lesser attention and protection under the international law compared to their conflict counterparts. The fulcrum for the right to adequate housing under international law is enshrined in the ICESCR. The criteria for right to adequate housing mentioned in CESCR General Comments have found their way in the IASC Operational Guidelines on the Protection of Persons in Situations of Natural Disasters, Sphere Project and several UN Declarations. While the Supreme Court of India articulated the ‘right to shelter’, the judiciary has failed to pay any attention in safeguarding this right in the context of natural disasters. The role of the NDMA or NHRC has not been encouraging either. There are no disaster specific norms available, including the Disaster Management Act, 2005, ensuring right to adequate housing. As a result, the victims continue to live in vicious circle of misery, both in temporary shelters and permanent housing, as the right has ramification on their other rights. This paper demonstrates the poor state of affairs from Orissa Super Cyclone to Uttarakhand floods – the trend which has remained unchanged. Considering the void in our domestic legal regime, this paper attempts to lay down broad outlines of a right-based housing policy for disaster victims drawing inferences from the international law and practice.