Thankfully, the inhuman attempt of some workers of the Indore Municipal Corporation to dump a truck full of homeless people, including the frail and elderly, whom they had gathered on the highway in the freezing cold was thwarted as villagers of the area protested after catching them red-handed. The shocking incident is a blot on Indore that has been tagged the cleanest city in the country for the past four years. Even stray dogs rounded up by the MCs are let loose back into their streets after neutering, or rehabilitated in pounds.
While action has been initiated against the perpetrators, the incident highlights the pitiable neglect of the homeless in India. Just last year, in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, a large chunk of the homeless people did not figure in the list of beneficiaries of lockdown relief, rations and shelter for the poor. For, they lack documents necessary to claim aid related to food, shelter, health and livelihood. That initially only Kerala, Delhi and Maharashtra talked of assistance for those without a roof is an indicator of how low the destitute figure in the governments’ schemes of things.
The Modi government’s aim of ensuring a home to every citizen by next year seems a distant dream as the implementation of measures to mitigate their miseries depicts a bleak picture. An audit of funds allocated over the years for schemes under the National Urban Livelihoods Mission that aims to build homes and shelters for the poor is needed to make sure that they are not diverted or misused. Also, an investigation into why the homeless prefer to spend nights out in the inclement weather rather than in some ‘raen basera’ (as reported from Hisar by The Tribune recently) built in various cities for them is needed and responsibility fixed for the callous waste of funds. Till the lackadaisical approach in providing the basics to the poverty-stricken continues, they are condemned to a life of marginalisation and exclusion. They deserve care for a dignified existence.