New Delhi, April 3 (IANS) Focussing on the lack of a policy for around three million urban homeless, the Sonia Gandhi-led National Advisory Council (NAC) has asked the government to build shelters for them in all cities and towns in the 12th Five Year Plan period from 2012-13 to 2016-17.
"There is a need for appropriate policy intervention to address the challenges faced by homeless people with regard to shelter, social housing and social protection," said the NAC in its recent communication to the government.
According to the 2001 Census, India had around 1.94 million homeless people, of whom 1.16 million lived in villages and only 0.77 million lived in cities and towns.
In its order of Jan 9, 2012, the Supreme Court reiterated that the right to dignified shelters was a necessary component of the Right to Life under Article 21 of the constitution.
The NAC has said there should be at least one permanent and well-equipped shelter for 100 people, or two with a capacity of 50 people each, for every 100,000 population in the 12th Plan period.
Further, it has said all 499 cities with over 100,000 population should be fully covered and 15 percent of the overall homeless population, which is one percent of the urban population of these cities, should be covered, in the same period.
According to the apex court, the homeless shelters need to open 24 hours in all seasons, and should have basic amenities like beds and bedding, toilets, drinking water, lockers, first aid, primary health, de-addiction and recreation facilities to enable a life with dignity.
Agreeing that the urban poor are often unable to access the benefits under development schemes due to lack of identity proof, the NAC has suggested that all homeless people should be given priority to various entitlements under the Public Distribution System, Integrated Child Development Services, admission in government schools, Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana and the Rajiv Awas Yojna.
Suggesting free legal aid and opening of bank or post office accounts for the urban poor, the advisory body has flagged the need to establish and comply with the protocol for inquest proceedings in case of deaths of such persons.
(Amit Agnihotri can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)
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