Urban homeless are amongst the most marginalised populations in India. The homeless are deprived of basic protection and the minimal human dignity of a roof over their heads. The homeless suffer extremes of climate, and do not have place to cook and bathe. Without a home they are denied basic citizenship rights including ration cards, voter ID cards and social security. The homeless suffer from both neglect and hostility from state authorities. At present there are over 286 million people who live in cities across the country. Cities such as Mumbai, Delhi and Kolkata are home to 17 per cent of the world’s slum dwellers.
Who are the homeless?
Homeless populations are not homogeneous, they face multiple degrees of vulnerability. Single women, infants, children, the elderly, disabled, persons with special needs and people involved in substance abuse are particularly at risk. In addition to social and economic vulnerability, these groups often cannot access shelter, and live in the open and are subjected to various forms of abuse and exploitation. These groups need special care and need to be accommodated in care homes.
The Census defines houseless population as persons not living in ‘census houses’. Thus the people who are homeless include the people who:
- Live and sleep on pavements, in parks, at railway stations, bus stations and places of worship, outside shops and factories, at constructions sites, under bridges, in hume pipes and so on;
- Spend their nights at night shelters, transit homes, short stay homes, beggar’s homes and children’s homes;
- Live in temporary structures without full walls and roof, such as under plastic sheets, tarpaulins or thatch roofs on pavements, parks, nallah beds and other common spaces.
Why do we need a campaign?
Cold waves are an annual feature and so cold-related deaths of homeless people. With dropping temperatures in North India the situation gets worse for women, children, old and disabled population who are forced to live on the streets.
Inspite of progressive orders and directives passed by the Supreme Court the plight of the homeless especially in winters is severe. Even in states which have shelters in place, they are mostly for men, or are temporary or not functioning, or without any amenities within the shelter. There are hardly any shelters for women , shelters for disabled , etc.
We need to campaign for:
- Recognition of the rights and dignity of the homeless
- The provision of permanent shelters across states as per Supreme Court guidelines.
- The provision of special shelters for women and the disabled.
- Stocktaking survey of shelters to see if they comply with Supreme Court guidelines. Involve local administration in such surveys.
- Run awareness drives by circulating the life stories of the homeless
- Hold photo exhibitions to higlight the conditions faced by the homeless
- Conduct public actions with students and other stakeholders to spread awareness and raise issues.
- Distribute blankets, food packets and medicine in solidarity with people in need.
Duration: 15th December, 2016 - 30th January,2017
Cities to be covered: Delhi, Kolkata, Mumbai, Chennai, Jaipur, Hyderabad
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