India: A Census of the Homeless
By :The Times of India
05 March 2011

NEW DELHI—The census of the homeless, which officially concluded on 1 March, has resulted in a face-off between a group of voluntary organizations and the office of the Director of Census Operations, Delhi. While a group of NGOs on Saturday pointed out that many homeless were left out of the counting process, the census director maintained that the exercise was brought to a close only after counting was completed. Some of the NGOs involved in the census count of the homeless—Aashray Adhikar Abhiyan (AAA), Indo-Global Social Service Society (IGSSS), Butterflies, Beghar Mazdoor Sangharsh Samiti (BMSS), Nirmana, Humana, GATI, Society for Promotion of Youth and Masses (SPYM) and CHETNA—came together on Saturday to point out flaws in the exercise. "Some of enumerators put multiple unrelated homeless families living on the same footpath in the same form treating them as one family, taking down the names of tent shelter residents directly from the attendance register and treating them as a single unit," a statement from the NGOs reads. According to them, several shelters were not covered in Kashmere Gate - Chabi Ganj and Ganda Nala with capacities exceeding 100 residents each. At Azadpur and Transport Nagar, approximately 1,000 homeless were left uncounted; in Dwarka, over 5,000 construction workers have been left out; in the Nilothi area, the mapping exercise showed 1,500-2,000 homeless people, out of which only 60 were counted; and in northeast Delhi, an estimated 3,000 people have been left out, the NGOs claimed. Director Census Operations Varsha Joshi said: "The census count of the homeless was a joint exercise carried out with NGO volunteers. They were a part of the planning process and were with us all throughout. We only brought the census of the homeless to a close on 1 March after verifying with the NGOs that the counting was complete."

Original article:


India Counts Its Homeless amid Demands for Action

Phil Hazlewood, AFP

3 March 2011

MUMBAI (AFP) – India`s homeless are being counted as part of the country`s mammoth 10-yearly census in an exercise that could help shape future housing policy in the fast-growing economy.

Government employees fanned out across the capital New Delhi and big cities such as Mumbai and Kolkata this week to record the hundreds of thousands of individuals and families who live a hand-to-mouth existence on the streets.

Provisional data is expected to be published by the end of March with the full report on the demographics of the world`s second-most populous nation due next year.

"It will bring the extent of the problem before the planning authorities and how it should be dealt with," Maju Varghese, from the YUVA Urban charity, told AFP in Mumbai.

But experts said gathering information on homeless people was notoriously difficult amid reports that some people were counted more than once while many others were missed.

"There are a lot of loopholes and shortcomings," said Shivani Chaudhry, from the Housing and Land Rights Network charity in New Delhi. "However it is a very good step forward that the homeless are being counted."

Varghese, whose organisation works with the urban poor, said the length of time taken for the survey—overnight Monday-Tuesday—was inadequate.

"We would have liked to have seen it go on for about two days and more concentrated in areas where there are homeless people," he said.

"People were left out and more time to engage with the homeless population would have helped."

The last census in 2001 estimated that there were 778,599 homeless people in urban India, many of them rural migrants seeking jobs, education and a better life as the country`s economy expands.

A 2009 government report into urban poverty blamed the situation on a lack of adequate and affordable housing, leaving street sleepers vulnerable not just to the elements but violence, health problems and exploitation.

In New Delhi, for example, there were only 14 government-run night shelters with a capacity of just under 3,000 for a homeless population of more than 100,000, the UNDP-backed report said.

In Mumbai, an overcrowded city of 18 million people, land for new housing is at a premium, with demand pushing up rents to unaffordable levels for the low-paid and widening the gap between rich and poor.

The homeless population is expected to have increased since 2001, Chaudhry and Varghese said, with the figures in New Delhi and Mumbai likely to be at least 150,000 each, although the government disputes that estimate.

Veteran housing activist Indu Prakash Singh said he saw individuals sleeping on one street in the Nizamuddin area of New Delhi counted as a single unit.

"They were creating a joint family on the streets, which is not accurate. It`s fudging reality. It`s forging information," he said.

In addition, activists said no questions were asked about the income of the so-called "pavement dwellers", which could help determine social and affordable housing policy.

The term "homeless" was also too vague, Chaudhry said.

"The definition needs to be refined as it`s not just people living in the open. You have boys working in restaurants and other industries who end up sleeping at work because they don`t have homes."

Singh suggested there was a malaise in Indian society about tackling social inequality, criticising some enumerators for turning up late, clocking off early and not treating the impoverished interviewees with respect.

"There`s a total lack of communication between the authorities and the people. They`re not bothered about the poor. They think that having to go to them is a punishment," he said.

"The figures could be double what the census counted. It only makes an impact when you have the real picture and you have a scientific way of approaching the problem."

Original article:


Huge Number of Destitutes Left out of Census Process, Say NGOs

Press Trust of India

6 March 2011

New Delhi—They may have braved the winter chill and roamed many filthy by-lanes at night, but lack of sensitivity on part of enumerators to the poor has made a mockery of the Census of the homeless in the national capital with many of them left out of the process, rights activists have alleged.

Enumeration of the homeless in the city was officially concluded on March 1. But, a group of NGOs working for the homeless alleged that the exercise was flawed and a huge number of the destitute were left out of the counting process.

"The whole enumeration process was a farce," said Indu Prakash Singh of Indo Global Social Service Society (IGSSS), an NGO working with the homeless.

"The attitude of the enumerators was actually the biggest problem in the whole exercise. They were insensitive towards the homeless and even some picked up fights with them on petty issues. Many of the enumerators were drunk," he told PTI.

Miloon Kothari, from the Housing and Land Rights Network (HLRN), said the Census of the homeless in Delhi had turned out to be "another form of corruption."

While the city has marched ahead of other metropolitan cities in putting up shelters for the homeless, the Census exercise showed that the government was not serious about tackling the issue of homelessness, said Kothari, who is also a former UN Special Rapporteur on Adequate Housing.

"An inaccurate enumeration will result in an inaccurate figure of the homeless. It would affect the issue of shelter, as the number of shelters to be set up in a city is decided on the basis of population," he pointed out.

Shivani Chaudhry, also from HLRN, said that the long term housing-related policy implications of thousands of people being left out during the Census would be grave.

"It`s a case of wilful neglect by the authorities," said Sanjay Kumar of Aashray Adhikar Abhiyan (AAA).

In 2000, AAA carried out a head-count of the homeless citizens on Delhi roads and found that there were over 52,000 such people in the city. But the 2001 Census came up with a figure of only 24,966 homeless persons in the city.

In 2008, an IGSSS study found 88,410 homeless citizens in Delhi, but the NGO believes that the actual number could be almost double, considering the limitations of a head count.

Census enumerators surveyed the city`s homeless on 27 and 28 February, following a mapping exercise. The exercise was extended by another day (1 March) to cover left out areas.

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