From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : NA
Mains level : Addressing the issue of homelessness in India
- In India, the northern states face extreme weather in peak winter and summer. Hundreds of homeless people die in winter due to harsh cold conditions and, in summer, due to intolerable heat.
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Why homelessness needs attention?
- Lack of record: There is an absence of official records enumerating deaths due to homelessness. It undermines the scale of the crisis in the era of statistics and showcases states apathy.
- Extreme poverty: Homelessness is one of the worst forms of marginalisation as most homeless individuals suffer from malnutrition and extreme poverty.
- Poor health condition: Access to healthcare facilities and their affordability is also a hurdle. Exorbitant conditions affect mental health in many cases.
- Vulnerability to violence: Moreover, these conditions also give rise to drug and alcohol consumption. It creates a conducive situation for substance abuse. Such circumstances increase an individual’s vulnerability to violence, especially in the case of women and children.
- Social castigation: Stigmatisation and social marginalisation compound their precarious situation. In a nutshell, homelessness strips a person from all human rights.
Reasons for homelessness
- Extreme poverty,
- Inadequate affordable housing,
- High levels of inequality,
- Low wages,
- High rents,
- The soaring cost of living
What are the estimates of homelessness in India?
- The 2011 census estimate: Nearly 17.7 lakhs people as houseless, however, the census fails to capture the entire homeless population.
- Commissioners of Supreme courts: since census are conducted in every 10 years, this data is decadal old. As per the Commissioners of the Supreme Court, 1 percent of the urban population is homeless, making it a population of ~37 lakhs.
- The Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs: Ministry conducted a third-party survey in 2019 to identify the urban homeless. It estimates that approximately 23.93 lakh people are homeless. Population increase and the COVID-19 pandemic have fueled the rise in the homeless population.
What is the “Shelter for Urban Homeless (SUH)” Scheme about?
- The scheme seeks to provide shelter to the urban poor. SUH is a sub-scheme under Deendayal Antyodaya Yojana-National Urban Livelihoods Mission (DAY-NULM). The scheme guidelines mention the following provisions:
- All weather permanent shelters will be open for 24 hours.
- Permanent community centre for at least 100 people for every 1 lakh population.
- Each one should cater to 50-100 persons depending on local conditions.
What are the problems in shelter homes?
- Entry level barrier: Homeless people face entry-level barriers in accessing public shelters due to local issues such as shelter location, entry fees, and identification proof for verification.
- Non-availability of IDs: Most of the homeless are in the informal economy, lacking necessary documentation like voter ids, Aadhar card, etc. It makes them ‘invisible’ in the eyes of the city administration, and their voice remains unheard.
Addressing the issue of homelessness
- Responsibility of ULBs: The responsibility of accessing the homeless population rests with the urban local bodies. Local authorities need to conduct surveys to assess the homeless population.
- Decentralisation of funds: State governments must implement the 74th Constitutional Amendment in its true spirit. Its implementation will empower ULBs, which can then bring all the shelter homes under the ambit of SMCs and train them to manage local issues.
- Ensuring the benefits through ULBs: It can help them to secure benefits and guarantee the convergence of various government schemes, thus also addressing deep-rooted issues like violence and exclusion.
- The aim of providing housing for all will remain a distant dream if the homeless are not covered. Sheltering the homeless is a crucial link in the overall housing continuum. The state governments need to empower municipal bodies to ensure the decentralisation of governance.
Q. Discuss the problem of Homelessness in India? What are the challenges in addressing the homelessness problems and suggest the solution for it.
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