Author: Preeti Deokar
IV Year | Ajeenkya DY Patil University, Pune
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights defines “homelessness” as the state of people who do not have a regular dwelling because they are unable to obtain and maintain regular, safe, and adequate housing, or because they do not have a fixed, regular, and adequate night-time residence.
In other words, the term “homeless” refers to someone who does not have a place to live. Several circumstances like financial constraints, a lack of security, or the house not being available at a suitable time and location cause such a situation.
Despite the fact that a home is one of the most significant components of a person’s life, statistics show that 1.77 million Indians are homeless. Further, the true figure became larger in the post-COVID pandemic as many more people from the country’s lowest quarter got impacted. Furthermore, many of the homeless are of a younger generation, such as teenagers and children, resulting in violations of human and children’s rights.
Scale of Homelessness in India:
In India, there are an estimated 1.8 million homeless individuals, with 52 percent living in cities. A further 73 million families live in substandard homes (IGH, 2018; Habitat, 2019). Despite the government’s ‘Housing for All-2022’ scheme, government authorities razed 53,700 dwellings in 2017, evicting 260,000 people for reasons such as slum-free ‘city-beautification’ initiatives (HLRN, 2018).
Disasters also contribute to the situation. In 2018, for instance, natural catastrophes and violence forced about 2.9 million people to flee their homes (Internal Displacement, 2019).
According to sources, over 40% of Indians residing in the poorest parts of the country were left out of the statistics during the lockdown and were denied any shutdown relief.
Homelessness in India: What Causes It?
India is a country with a high population density. As a result, the country requires a large amount of consideration so that the government can provide equitable access to all citizens. And somewhere down the line, the government has not been able to offer these to all citizens.
The government fails to provide a sufficient number of jobs for those who are eager to work. The other issue is that there is a great deal of inequality between the elite and poorer classes. People tend to recruit just those who they believe are suitable or of their class, ignoring those who are poorer. As a result of this unemployment, people get pushed further down into poverty, which in turn gives rise to homelessness.
Food, clothing, and shelter prices have risen to the point where the poorest people can no longer afford even the most basic necessities. Moreover, they are frequently forced to choose between two square meals and a permanent shelter. Furthermore, the homeless would rather dwell in a temporary shelter made of scraps than buy or rent a proper home due to the high cost of housing.
Government Initiatives to Reduce Homelessness:
In India’s Constitution, the right to appropriate housing is protected as one of the fundamental rights. In fact, Supreme Court has also acknowledged Articles 14, 19, and 21 as deciding factors in determining an individual’s dignity. States have a responsibility to defend an individual’s dignity by ensuring that the homeless have a home.
Policy on National Housing: Following reports of the deaths of numerous homeless individuals in New Delhi, the Supreme Court ordered the construction of one homeless shelter for every 100 people in every municipality with a population of more than 100,000 people. The shelters provided cleanliness, clean drinking water, and an identification facility. These were eventually included in the National Policy on the Urban Homeless.
Help Available by Civil Society:
NGO drop-in centers are another valuable resource. Children are often, offered these resources. India NGOs run these facilities to assist the homeless.
Contributions: One may help the homeless by donating essential commodities. In brief, these may be new or pre-loved clothes, footwear, blankets, food, kits for personal hygiene, and other necessities.
Soup Kitchen: One might set up a soup kitchen in collaboration with NGOs or even with a group of friends. It gives a platform to anyone who has the resources, to share them with those who are in desperate need. Different communities run soup kitchen centers to serve food to the homeless.
Volunteer: One can volunteer in non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and arrange workshops for the homeless, providing them with general information and survival skills.
- It is necessary to offer affordable shelters that provide good quality services. It is also necessary to provide sanitation facilities.
- Provide medical examinations on a regular basis. Prepare weekly care kits and deliver them to the needy.
- Homeless persons must be provided with quality instruction and training so that they can make a living for themselves. Increasing the number of resources available to homeless people is essential. Better health and educational facilities can aid in the search for acceptable work for the disadvantaged.
- Providing job opportunities without bias can go a long way. In fact, this may alone help the concerned people in meeting their basic needs.
- Another way is to give counselling and assistance to homeless people subjected to daily harassment, abuse, and violence.
India holds a dense population. The majority of the homeless are young people, according to studies, which has an impact on India’s overall economic growth.It not only has an impact on the country’s economic progress, but it also violates a person’s basic human right to a home.
As a result, it is critical for both the government and individuals in Indian society to step up and take action to lower the percentage of homeless people in the country. On the whole, to end homelessness, prevention, early intervention, proper nourishment, and a complete law are critical.
 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Art. 25 Para. 1.
 Youth for Unity and Voluntary Action (YUVA), INDIA, United Nations Human Rights: Mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the Right to Adequate Housing (April 10, 2022, 1:23 PM), https://www.ohchr.org/sites/default/files/Documents/Issues/Housing/RightLife/080716-_YUVA_India.pdf
 Global Homelessness Statistics, Homeless World Cup Foundation (April 10, 2022, 2:10 PM), https://homelessworldcup.org/homelessness-statistics/
 Global Homelessness Statistics, Homeless World Cup Foundation (April 10, 2022, 2:13 PM), https://homelessworldcup.org/homelessness-statistics/
 Evita Das, 1.77Mn Indians Are Homeless. 40% Of Them Are Getting No Lockdown Relief, India Spend (April 12, 2022, 9:00 PM), https://www.indiaspend.com/1-77mn-indians-are-homeless-40-of-them-are-getting-no-lockdown-relief/
 INDIAN CONST. Part III.
 Souradh C. Valson, Prevention of homelessness: how is the problem treated legally, (April 14, 2022, 11:34 AM) https://blog.ipleaders.in/prevention-homelessness-problem-treated-legally/
Editor: Ashish Ranjan