Marginality, Development and Sustainable livelihoods
Topic: Homeless in the City
Urban poverty is manifested in three ways slums, pavement dwellers and homeless people The Census Of India defines homeless population as the persons who are not living in census houses. A census house is referred to as a ‘structure with roof’ . Homeless in India is considered to be of the tune of 80 million. This study looks at the homeless population in the city of Mumbai. The attitude of general population about homeless people is that they are engaged in beggary. Such a misplaced belief needs a serious reflection based on the fact that the homeless population comprises not only of beggars but construction workers, fruit vendors, coolies, hand cart pullers, catering workers, domestic workers. The homeless in Mumbai has a different profile compared to other cities of India. They are already connected to the city economy through engaging in occupations that help the city to function well. Most of the ragpickers and domestic workers in the city are homeless. Also, most of the homeless people live with families. The census of India defines homeless population as the persons who are not living in census houses. A census house is referred to as a ‘structure with roof’. Although this is the definition which is used to describe the homeless population, there are still problems of reliable estimation of the homeless and these problems surface during surveys conducted for Indian cities. Social worker Baba Amte has defined homeless as ‘ people with sky above and earth below’. It it estimated that there are about 78 million homeless people in India.
Misplaced Public Perception About Homeless
The problem of estimation lays not only in the definition but also in the attitudes of the enumerators i.e. the teachers who are employed for enumeration during the census. An example of the negative attitude of the enumerators towards the homeless became evident during the homeless survey of Delhi. The exercise was carried out from February 27 to March 1 by Census officials and enumerators were guided by non-government organizations working with homeless citizens. It was later brought out by the NGOs that were involved in the exercise that the enumeration process was far from being satisfactory. “In many instances, census enumerators simply list a group of homeless people as part of the same family whether they are related or not”, Indo-Global Social Service Society member Indu Prakash Singh said in a press conference held in March, 2011 to discuss the problems faced during the census. Zaved Nafis Rahman of NGO Butterflies said: “Enumerators at Nizamuddin were tasked with surveying homeless children. However, they refused to venture out and wanted NGO workers to look for and bring them homeless children”. It was also told in the press conference that the NGOs had to pursue the enumerators and in many cases the enumerators did not even show up. This sort of an attitude of enumerators not only raises concern over the reliability of estimation of homeless which comprise about 78 million of the population of India but also raises a concern over the root/ origin of such an attitude. This is not only about the attitudes that the enumerators or the state have towards the homeless but it is about the attitude that the general public shares with the state towards the homeless. Whenever there is someone seen residing on the pavements, or near traffic signals or under the flyovers the common perception that people share about that person is that he/she is a useless person who would either be a criminal or a beggar. This common perception manifests in the harassment of the homeless by the police under the banner of Bombay Beggary prevention Act, 1959 which criminalizes beggary. Under this act beggars may be sent to institutions or may bail themselves out by paying money. The police on most occasions considering majority of the homeless...
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