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From 2001 to 2011, families without homes increased 37% in cities, fell 26% in villages

While the government aims to ensure every citizen has a home by 2022, the number of families that live on the streets of urban India has grown

Written by ZEESHAN SHAIKH | Published: April 25, 2017 12:11 am
slums, poverty, homeless families, homeless families increase, delhi poverty, delhi slums, delhi homeless people, houseless household, indian express news, explained, india news Homeless people sleep on a footpath near Kashmere Gate in Delhi, not far from where one such homeless man was run over and killed by a car driven by a schoolboy last week. Three others were seriously injured. Source: Praveen Khanna

The government’s definition of “Houseless Households” covers families that do not live in buildings or “Census houses”, but rather in the open — by roadsides, on pavements, in “Hume” pipes, under flyovers and staircases, on railway platforms, and in the open at or near places of worship.

Between the two Censuses of 2001 and 2011, the numbers of these houseless households remained virtually unchanged in India — growing a mere 0.5% from 4.47 lakh to 4.49 lakh. Urban India, however, showed a 36.78% growth — from 1.87 lakh to 2.56 lakh households — during this same period, while rural India showed a negative growth of 25.73% (falling from 2.59 lakh to 1.92 lakh households).

“This disparity in rural and urban areas is a direct impact of the social assistance schemes that have been launched by the government. Most of these schemes are meant for rural areas, and are not as easily available to the urban poor,” Mohammed Tarique, coordinator of Koshish, a Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) Field Action Project on Homelessness and Destitution, said.

Many of those who live on the streets are also economic migrants who have moved from villages to cities in search of employment. While many do get a job, getting a house is often difficult — and they end up sleeping on the streets, Tarique added.

Interestingly, even as the number of homeless households increased, the average size of these households shrank between 2001 and 2011, suggesting that some individuals might have abandoned their families, or drifted away from them.

In 2001, the family size of a homeless household was 4.34 in India — 4.48 in rural areas and 4.14 in the cities. In the latest Census, the numbers went down to 3.9 for India, 4.3 for villages, and 3.7 for cities.

The country’s total homeless population, however, came down from 19.43 lakh to 17.73 lakh between the two Censuses. While a large number of states showed a fall in the numbers of homeless households, several big states showed an increase — Jharkhand (139.2%), Delhi (130.8%), Uttar Pradesh (68.3%), West Bengal (47.9%), Jammu & Kashmir (44.32%), Bihar (41.4%), Rajasthan (37.3%).

Not all those who are homeless are classified as beggars or destitutes. Of the total 17.7 lakh homeless population recorded by the 2011 Census, only 3.7 lakh — or 1 in 5 individuals — were classified as beggars and destitutes. The remaining are either migrant workers with no home, or nomadic tribes who ply their trade on the streets.

The law, however, categorises all those who live on the steets as beggars. And beggary is illegal — and punishable by a jail term of 3-10 years. The statute against begging has been coded in the Bombay Prevention of Begging Act, 1959, which has been followed by almost all states. Activists say the Act provides no clear categorisation of beggars, and clubs homeless migrants and landless labourers with beggars.

Under the anti-begging law, which is based on an archaic British law against vagrants, anyone with no visible means of subsistence and found wandering about in a public space is deemed a beggar. All those who solicit alms in a public place through singing, dancing, fortune-telling or street performances, too are deemed as beggars.

The Act gives discretionary powers to police to pick up anyone on the hunch that he is a beggar or destitute with no means of fending for himself.

Recognising that the law criminalises the poor and those suffering from mental ailments, rather than rehabilitating destitutes, the central government last year finalised a draft Persons in Destitution (Protection Care and Intervention) Model Bill, 2016.

The draft law seeks to “provide for the protection care, support training and other services to all persons in destitution”, and refers to destitution as a state of poverty or abandonment arising from economic or social deprivation including age and infirmity, homelessness, disability and sustained unemployment.

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  1. H
    Apr 26, 2017 at 11:39 pm
    Indian government is urged to seige all properties from those who were responcible for dividing the country and will do so in future ( given their track record through out the world) and distribute the properties to the poor tribals
    1. A
      Apr 26, 2017 at 10:59 am
      This sanghi govt priority is to give shelter houses for cows not human beings when millions of Indians sleeping in the street ! Govt spend only 25 crore for old age homes under govt control and they spend 600 crore for gau mata ! unfortunately illiterate north Indians loves their gau mata more than their own parents and rest of india have to pay for it!
      1. R
        Apr 25, 2017 at 11:10 am
        Trend of families was started by BJP, forward by Congress and now BJP are continuing it. Both of them are corrupt. I wish that all these corrupt politician shall die.
        1. R
          Apr 25, 2017 at 8:50 am
          When the house has made a commodity by real estate agencies like CREDAI. The common man lost his dream of having own house. Investment by Mafia in land and building has resulted in surge pricing in real estate where actually no demand is not there. People in olden days used to live on their daily earning, now a days people in cities are living on rental and brokerage , with out actually working. It is a curse on poor man by these filthy rich people and influential one. Modiji make housing is a basis right to poor man not a commodity to earn profit. Benami property should be confiscated and given to poor. Let government have possession of all properties and control the real estate prices through Bank. Let these builders learn a lesson or two with government controlling and regulating the price. Poor should have shelter means, government has to regulate the real estate Mafia(CREDAI).
          1. A
            Apr 26, 2017 at 10:32 am
            So true! I have seen political parties hand in gloves with the land mafia in Mumbai. While some areas are controlled by BJP or Shiv Sena, the others by NCP. These people provide protection for illegal construction. If there is permission for 20 storey building, the will let the builder raise it to 25 storeys and share the booty. They also ist the construction mafia to grab the land from the farmers or slum dwellers, convert agricultural and forest land into NA etc. All the political parties are involved in this game. It is a pity! May God help the nation! Jai Hind!
          2. B
            Apr 25, 2017 at 8:40 am
            until unless they bring strict po tion control measures indians will breed like roaches,need a strong leader like sanjay hi ,after 2 kids mandatory sterlisation otherwise no Govt jobs or private jobs
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