A census conducted in 2001 indicates that there are 1.94 million homeless people living in India. 3/5 of them live in villages and 2/5 in cities and towns. This figure, however, appears to be an underestimation. Approximation indicates that merely the population of street children and beggars are 18 million and 6 million, respectively.
A significant number of the estimated 80 to 200 million of the population sleeping hungry every night comprise homeless people. The condition makes them susceptible to extreme weather conditions which, sometimes amounts to death. Several numbers of them, in fact, have died in the streets in winter but in no avail could be associated to starvation.
Homeless population is among the most vulnerable and disadvantaged sectors in the country. Despite, however, 60% of them, based on the Commissioners' Eighth Report, are not covered by food schemes and or other forms of assistance provided for below the poverty line (BPL) category of the population due to non-ownership of a proof of residence.
The urgency and severity of homeless concerns, urged the Commissioners to bring their plight to the attention of the Supreme Court. Several interim orders have been issued both by the High Court and the Supreme Court as a response to the Commissioners' petition. One of these responses requires submission of a report of union territories and state governments as regard to measures/actions they have undertaken to immediately amend the condition of the homeless people.
Important Supreme Court Orders on Homelessness
- The Government of Delhi and its concerned agencies are directed to take immediate steps to provide night shelters, improve facilities of existing shelters, and provide additional facilities i.e., blankets and mobile toilets, to homeless people in the state. (High Court Order date 20 January 2010)
- The Government of Delhi and its concerned agencies are directed to issue AAY ration cards to all homeless people in Delhi with a validity of at least two years and renewable if they remain homeless in the city. (High Court Order date 20 January 2010)
- All major cities in all States and Union Territories which have a population of more than five lakh have to be provided with night shelters in a ratio of one night shelter per lakh of population equipped with basic facilities such us electricity, water arrangements, toilet facilities, sanitation arrangement, and beddings i.e., blankets, mattresses, and jute mats. (Supreme Court Order dated 10 February 2010 and 05 May 2010)
- All State Governments and Union Territories and their instrumentalities shall not demolish any night shelter without providing an alternate or till further order. (Supreme Court Order dated 16 December 2010)
- Shelter Manual, October 2010 (pdf)
- Homelessness Primer (coming soon)
- India: Urban Poverty Report 2009 (pdf)
- India: Urban Poverty Report 2009 Fact Sheet (pdf)
- Living Rough: A Study of Homeless Populations in Delhi, Chennai, Patna, and Madurai (pdf)
Documentaries on Homeless Persons
- Coming soon