Homelessness and the Right to the City in India
Homelessness constitutes one of the worst violations of the human right to adequate housing and the right to life as well as interrelated human rights to health, food, work/livelihood, security of the person and home, privacy, water, and sanitation, among other rights. Independent experts estimate that one per cent of India’s urban population (at least 4 million people) is living in homelessness. Just in the capital city of Delhi, at least 150,000–200,000 people are estimated to be homeless, without any form of shelter.
State response to homelessness across India has been largely limited to the provision of emergency, temporary shelters. Permanent housing solutions as well as efforts to address the structural causes of homelessness are missing. A number of factors are responsible for rising homelessness in the country, including continued state failure to invest in social/low-cost housing, and rising forced evictions and demolitions of homes of the urban and rural poor without adequate resettlement.
The COVID-19-induced crisis has created tremendous challenges for persons living in homelessness. The socio-economic and political vulnerabilities of homeless persons have not been caused by the pandemic but have been greatly aggravated by it. Given their already high morbidity and mortality rates on account of inadequate living conditions, lack of access to basic services, poor health, and low levels of nutrition, homeless persons face heightened risk of contracting the coronavirus. Since the pandemic, they have been suffering from a severe loss of livelihoods, growing hunger, increased impoverishment as well as forced relocation to inadequate shelters during the lockdown.
The ‘right to the city’ is defined as the right of all residents, especially the marginalized, to participate in decision-making to shape the city and to enjoy an equal share of the benefits of the city, based on principles of human rights and social justice. It encompasses the human rights to adequate housing, health, work/livelihood, water, sanitation, participation, information, security, and the right to a clean and healthy environment, among other human rights. Given the growing challenges of forced evictions, unaffordable housing, discrimination, violence, and the lack of access to healthcare, how do we ensure the ‘right to the city’ for people living in homelessness in India?
In collaboration with INHAF, Housing and Land Rights Network (HLRN) is organizing a webinar to reflect on and discuss the major challenges and policy shifts required to develop durable solutions to end homelessness while upholding the human rights of all homeless people, including homeless children, women, older persons, transgender persons, persons with disabilities, people with chemical dependencies, and persons living with chronic illnesses and mental illness.