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The lost citizens

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A presentation outlining the plight of the most deprived of our citizens.

Published in: News & Politics
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The lost citizens

  1. 1. Who are the urban homeless? Described variously as homeless, houseless, roofless, shelter less people, and pavement dwellers Census of India: ‘houseless population’ as the persons who are not living in ‘census houses’, or a ‘structure with roof’ Possible places where the houseless population may sleep include: pavements in hume pipes under bridges under staircases courtyards of shrines parks homeless shelters
  2. 2. Count the Children and the Dogs
  3. 3. Mostly not recent migrantsHomelessness an enduring conditionLarge majority working men supporting impoverished families in villagesWomen escaping patriarchy and violenceChildren escaping intense abuse and hunger Abandoned women and the agedWomen who escape violenceComplete breakdown of family, community and state social protection systems
  4. 4.  State denial and indifference Devalued citizenship rights Census in 2001 enumerated only 0.77 million urban houseless persons Gross underestimates because highly invisible group to officials: Lack formal address, identity proof, ration cards and voters’ identity cards Try to avoid visibility by state officials Micro-surveys estimate at least 1 percent of the population of cities This places estimate of urban homeless persons in India to be at least around 3 million
  5. 5. Battling the seasons, especially cold and monsoon rainsInvisible homeless deathsRenting even blankets to sleep in the openPerennial fear of physical violence and sexual abusePolice harassment and violence
  6. 6. Low end, casual, unorganised, unprotected workMain occupations:rag-picking,casual daily workstreet vendingconstruction workcasual sex workbegging (small numbers)blood donation
  7. 7. Little and troubled access to even the most elementary public servicesEverything that they can use has to be paid for:every visit to the toiletevery bathwater, both for drinking and for general useblanket ‘I am afraid that even the mirror may not reflect your image if you happened to stand before it without any money!’ - Subbiah, an aged homeless man in Madurai
  8. 8. Food quantities may – but are not always – sufficientQuality monotonous, very elementary, often of poor nutritional value, and unhygienicSources: street vendors, foraging, alms from religious placesRarely get home cooked foodYet they spend the greatest part of their earnings in the daily struggle to feed themselves and their dependents.
  9. 9. Loneliness and social isolation dominant motifs of street life Around half homeless respondents in our study said they never celebrated festivals 71 per cent said they had no friends whom they could trust and 62 per cent felt that they belonged to no community, even of the homeless. 62 out of 85 homeless respondents felt they had never been helped by anyone during their lives on the streets Many find solace in their loneliness in drugs or intoxicationTherefore even working homeless populations suffer deep psycho-social problems as they spend years on streets
  10. 10. HOW MANY OF YOU ARE FROM DELHI??Extreme mutual acrimony and distrustHomeless widely seen as people with no rights, their livelihoods and shelter illegal, even criminalBeggary and vagrancy laws criminalise destitutionIntense unrelenting police harassment brutality constantly evicts homeless peopleDe facto debarment from public hospitals, schools, feeding centres, pensions and ration cards, and social security entitlementsVery few night sheltersShelters with sub human facilitiesNegligible government programs for food, housing and social security of the homeless
  11. 11. Homeless people dying on Delhi’s streets in winter 2009Letter to Supreme Court JudgesPrompt intervention creates right of homeless persons to 24 hour dignified sheltersDelhi doubled shelters in 2 daysNational effort under wayMajor bottleneck: no National Program for Urban Homeless
  12. 12. Delhi happens to be the only state in the “average” category in the SC commissioners report. All other states in poor150 odd Shelters with a capacity of 50 each on average – do the math??Delhi has more than 2 Lakh homeless with 50K children…Current capacities cover less than 5% of the need and the gap keeps growing…And Delhi is the best………..
  13. 13. Scheme very marginal in profile and importance.Scheme not promoted as an “entitlement”State and local governments required to take loans for what is essentially a welfare effortDemand driven program, depending on demand from local city and state governments, which rarely came because of invisibility, powerlessness and stigma that surrounds urban homeless personsLittle knowledge or participation of civil society or homeless persons themselvesExtremely marginal allocations, sometimes as low as 1 crore rupees for the entire country! Overall 8 crores were used for 114 projects throughout the country with 17,000 beds in the period of the scheme.

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