By Sagarika Satapathy: Homelessness is the condition and social category of people who lack housing, because they cannot afford, or are otherwise unable to maintain, a regular, safe and adequate shelter. Housing is a basic human need, yet the statistics of United Nations Commission on Human Rights in 2005 notes that, an estimated that over 100 million people around the world have no shelter.
In rapidly urbanising India, urban homelessness is a growing concern. Over 286 million people are now inhabitants of the country’s cities; three of them, namely, Mumbai, Delhi and Kolkata, are home to 17 percent of the world’s slum dwellers. It is estimated that at least 1 percent of the population of cities in India is homeless. The Census of India defines ‘houseless population’ as the persons who are not living in ‘census houses’. A ‘census house’ is referred to as a ‘structure with roof’. Census enumerators are instructed ‘to take note of the possible places where the houseless population is likely to live such as ‘on the roadside, temples, mandaps, platforms and the like’.
The Supreme Court of India has provided numerous guidelines on night-shelter for homeless people, such as: Firstly, all cities covered under JNNURM and above 5 lakhs, to have one 24hrs, 365 days a year, homeless shelter with a capacity of 100 persons for every one lakh population. Secondly, there should be basic amenities provided in the shelters, which are to include mattress, bed roll, blanket, portable drinking water, functional latrines, first aid, primary health facilities, de addiction and recreation facilities etc. Thirdly, around 30% of these night-shelters to be special shelters for women, children and old age people.
The Supreme Court has also passed a series of important orders to all state governments to establish permanent shelters with basic services for homeless people in all major cities, including special shelters for most vulnerable categories among the homeless, such as single women and the disabled and aged.
Though Supreme Court has mandated all state governments to construct Night Shelter homes by 2011, no significant progress on construction of these homes have been made so far in Odisha. According to an R.T.I. report, the following anomalies have been found in the construction of Night Shelters in the state of Odisha.
The number of night shelters in different cities of the state is far less than that of required to the needy people. As per the information from Ministry of Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation, Bhubaneswar centre Under the NULM Scheme has released a sum of Rs. 653,4800.00 to the state on 25-6-2014. Again on 2-2-2015 the centre released a sum of Rs. 577,7900. 00 to the state for night shelter construction in the state.
As per the information from Puri Muncipality obtained through RTI an amount of Rs 91.27lakh was released for the development of Night shelters in Puri only. But the same amount was released both to Puri and Berhampur district i.e. Rs/60 lakhto Puri Muncipality and31.27 lakh to BMC Berhampur –
In the Bhubaneswar based shelters, the level of basic amenities and services provided is very poor. There is lack of health facilities at the shelter and no referral services provided at the shelters. So much so, there no separate shelters for children, and special categories of homeless such as mentally and physically challenged and others, while men and women are occupying same shelter. Ironically, no awareness campaign is conducted for the homeless people. More than anything else, there is no official-database for the homeless people of Odisha.
Mahadev Sahu, age about 45 years, a beggar by profession, is a homeless, and staying nearby Vani Vihar flyover throughout the year. When asked about his residence, he said he is living there since last 2 years. Neither government nor any other organization is taking care of the homeless people in the city. He is totally unaware about the rights of homeless.
60-years old Manoroma Padhi is also living nearby Vani Vihar flyover and doesn’t want to go anywhere. Mahadev Sahu is helping her by providing food to her though they are unknown to each other.
“Shelter” is a prime necessity of our needs and rights for our existence. The successive state and central governments have introduced various schemes to provide night shelter for the homeless people. Sadly, all these government schemes are yet to reach the targeted people.