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India amends law to oust squatting politicians from official homes


India has redrafted a law to allow politicians to be forcibly removed from official homes within three days of leaving office, to end the practice of squatting by powerful figures.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s cabinet approved an amendment to an existing law Wednesday permitting authorities to use force to remove former ministers, lawmakers and retired bureaucrats from official premises in the Indian capital.

Politicians and officials have for decades routinely refused to leave their plush government houses in New Delhi’s leafy, colonial-era government zone designed by British architect Edwin Lutyens.

The government said the amendment was made to ensure that “unauthorised occupants are evicted in a speedy and smooth manner” to accommodate new incumbents, a process which has otherwise stretched to months or even years.

Around 1,500 squatters, mostly powerful politicians and bureaucrats, were shunted out of their official homes by the Modi government after it came to power in 2014.

But dozens of officials continue to stay, including the former head of northern Himachal Pradesh state, after securing court orders, according to the Hindustan Times newspaper.

Authorities have barred construction in the Lutyens district to preserve the architecture, leading to a severe space crunch in the most sought after address in India’s political and bureaucratic establishment.

Last year authorities forcibly evicted the estranged wife of Omar Abdullah, former head of Jammu and Kashmir state, from an official residence after she refused to vacate long after losing the chief minister’s post.

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