A total of 1.77 millions Indians have been declared homeless. However, an analysis of state’s circulars on help for the homeless released between March 9 to the 3rd of May, 2020 shows that 16 states which account for 40percent of the nation’s homeless don’t mention homeless persons in any way. The only states that mention them are Delhi, Maharashtra and Kerala mention regular health check-ups and safety guidelines for homeless.

Without money or documents to assist them in accessing aid measures for water, food, health sanitation, shelter and income The homeless are the most susceptible to the immediate effects and consequences of the COVID-19 disaster as the study shows.

A plethora of government circulars relating to COVID-19 relief have been released to date. There are 28 state and one Union Territory (Delhi) which we examined have announced orders nearly every day. This analysis, however, from IGSSS, the Indo Global Social Service Society (IGSSS), an organization that works to create sustainable living, focuses on orders pertaining to homeless.

Sixteen states do not make any mention of homeless in their many circulars that we have discovered. These are Assam, Goa, Gujarat, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Punjab, Sikkim, Tamil Nadu, Telangana, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand and West Bengal. From these, Punjab (46,714), Haryana (51,871), West Bengal (134,040), Uttar Pradesh (329,125) and Gujarat (144,306) together where 40 percent of India’s homeless according to the census in 2011.

States like Gujarat, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Sikkim, Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh, and West Bengal have ensured the distribution of food items to ration-card holders who are enrolled in two different categories that include The Antyodaya Anna Yojana (AAY) where households are identified according to the guidelines of the Centre, and the priority HouseHold (PHH) program in accordance with the state guidelines. Of these, those who are homeless may be the only beneficiaries of AAY that includes provisions for the ‘destitute’.

 

There’s some talk of providing food to the people who are homeless, in circulars released from Andhra Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Delhi, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Odisha, Rajasthan and Tripura. The supply of cooked meals is crucial because the majority of shelters don’t have kitchens. At present, shelters provide dry rations while others provide cooked meals.

“In the coming period of six months, living for homeless people will be extremely challenging,” said Brijesh Arya of Maharashtra Beghar Abhiyan, a group that assists those who are homeless in Maharashtra. “Most homeless are domestic workers as well as laborers who work for a living. In the event of a lockdown they might not have a source of income. Then, the monsoon is expected to come.”

The water shortage is severe for homeless people and, given the poor quality of the food that they consume, these people are more susceptible to illness, according to Arya.

As as of March 3, 2020 just three governments – the Maharashtra and Delhi government have discussed periodic health check-ups for homeless. In the same way the only mention of this is that Kerala mentions that it will bring the homeless under the safety net.

The only states to even talk about providing basic sanitation services like hand wash, sanitizer’s and face masks included Andhra Pradesh, Delhi, Karnataka and Maharashtra. Maharashtra also emphasized the necessity of a sufficient water supply for shelters and in Kerala however, just as a generalization.

The governments from Andhra Pradesh, Delhi, Karnataka and Maharashtra announced awareness-raising campaigns regarding COVID-19 to help people who live in poverty. 

14 states have issued circulars focusing on pension funds cash relief, pension funds and social security and stating that all below-poverty-line families will be entitled to around the amount of Rs 1,000 from pension funds or cash relief or other forms social security like no termination of employment within the period of lockdown. However, the procedure to access these programs might not be beneficial to the homeless due to lack of documents.

There is no access to health facilities

Census 2011 data indicate the number of homeless people in India as 1.77 million, like we mentioned earlier however, civil society organizations have estimated that the actual figure could be more than 3 million.

The IGSSS as an advocacy in support of the needs of homeless in urban areas, conducted a survey in May of 2019 across Bihar, Maharashtra, Jharkhand, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu to examine the issues of homeless people. It attempted to discover who exactly the homeless are and the state of various elements that influence their lives, such as entitlements, services as well as government policies and access to shelter the challenges that are specific to women.

About 80% of homeless were from people belonging to Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and other classes that are backward, and 60% of them were born in the city in which they lived which suggests that poverty is a cycle across generations was the conclusion of the survey which comprised 4,382 individuals across 15 cities. The survey was conducted mostly in the evenings , and also in the evening to ensure only homeless people were included in the study.

The majority of 41.6 percent of homeless do not have access to any health-related services yet most homeless reside within 1 km of a hospital or clinic according to this year’s IGSSS survey.

The issue is especially severe in the homeless women who suffer from malnutrition as well as many other ailments such as mental health problems and pregnant women who are at risk. Since hospitals are overwhelmed of COVID-19 patients, the problem of accessibility could get worse in the near future.

The ability to eat

Then there’s the issue of food access or specifically, rationing via the system of distribution for public benefit (PDS). The PDS only allows 17% of homeless can avail rations through PDS benefits. For those who are homeless, particularly children and women there is a hurdle in getting a healthy and nutritious diet.

“I have eaten only the khichdi in the days since the lockdown started since that’s the only food item I receive in my food bag,” Ramu Bhai, one of the basket makers of Mount Abu who works in Mahim, Mumbai, told the IGSSS via phone on April 20th the 20th of April, 2020. “But I’m forced to live, so I live with what I have.”

As as of the 3rd of May, 2020 the state of India has not mentioned the restoration of livelihoods or any financial assistance to homeless persons in the circulars analyzed. The existence of the homeless is directly linked to the growth of the informal sector which is an significant part of Indian economy.

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