The Brihanmumbai Corporation (BMC) will conduct a survey to find out the number of homeless people in Mumbai after the Supreme Court-appointed Shelter Monitoring Committee raised questions over the findings of a previous study that pegged the number of homeless at 11,915 in a city with 1.24 crore people.
The corporation floated an Expression of Interest on Thursday to appoint an agency to conduct enumeration of the homeless in Mumbai.
The agency will have to conduct the survey with the help of a mobile-based app system, where the location of all the homeless will be geotagged and biometric registration will be done. The agency is supposed to create a web-based portal for showcasing total number of homeless in the city and total number of shelters for them.
An official from the Planning Department — which is taking up the survey — said that destitutes will be categorized into five types — Seasonal Homelessness, Occupational Homelessness, Distress Homelessness, Nomadic Tribes, and Individual homeless.
“The survey will cover the entire Mumbai region even though BMC is not the planning authority. We are also preparing a policy for the homeless. All the steps are being taken following the directions of the Shelter Monitoring Committee. The data from the survey will be used to plan welfare and empowerment schemes for destitutes,” said Kiran Dighavkar, Assistant Municipal Commissioner (Planning).
The project will cost Rs 25 lakh and the finalised agency will have to finish the task in 90 days.
In 2016, the Supreme Court had ordered all state governments to constitute a shelter home monitoring committee for the homeless. The role of the committee was to ensure implementation of schemes under National Urban Livelihood Mission for the urban homeless. In 2018, the Supreme Court ordered states to conduct a third party survey to find out the total number of homeless people in order to create welfare facilities for them.
The Maharashtra government had awarded a contract to Telangana-based VMax-e-Solutions India Private Limited at a cost of Rs 1.75 crore to conduct the survey. According to the survey, there were only 21,882 homeless people across Maharashtra. The survey conducted in over 250 Urban Local Bodies (ULBs) showed that 31 ULBs had no homeless persons.
The survey’s findings showed that Mumbai had 11,915 homeless. Mumbai Metropolitan Region (MMR) areas like Thane had only 147 homeless, Navi Mumbai had 103 and Kalyan 228. Moreover, other big cities like Pune, Nagpur and Nashik had 1,060, 1,060 and 894 homeless persons, respectively, the survey stated.
Questions were raised over the findings by activists, as the total number of homeless as per the 2011 census conducted by the central government pegged the number of homeless in Mumbai at 57,416.
The Supreme Court-appointed Shelter Monitoring Committee had also questioned the numbers.
“The BMC should take help from NGOs who are working for homeless people. They could be helpful in providing accurate information. Also, as per the Supreme Court guidelines, in Mumbai there must be 125 homeless shelters against the population,” said Brijesh Arya from Homeless Collective, an organization that works for destitute.
After the survey is completed, a policy will be framed for empowerment of the homeless.
Earlier, officials from the Planning Department said they had identified a place in Mahul where a skill centre would be set up. They have finalised 224 rooms in MHADA building where 1,500 homeless can be accommodated temporarily. Skill centres would be set up in the colony to train the people so that they can be made self-employed.
Currently, while there are 12 shelter homes for adults with 239 people, 11 shelter homes for people below 18 years old and 488 people occupying them. The BMC has said that they are going to start four new shelter homes at Chandivali, Dahisar, Andheri and Govandi. The BMC had also launched a helpline number for the homeless on World Homeless Day in October.