Release of the study report on homeless “City Makers in Bhubaneswar” undertaken by ActionAid & CCWD

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Report by Bhaskar Pradhan; Bhubaneswar: ActionAid with its ally CCWD (Centre for Women & Children Development) undertook a study on the living conditions of the homeless in Bhubaneswar mobilising more than 50 volunteers from different slums, and educational institutions of Bhubaneswar.
So while the census data says the population of homeless people in Bhubaneswar is 1,245, the present study done by the ActionAid India counted as many as 6,559 homeless people. But despite the fact that there are so many homeless people in the city, the capacity of the shelter homes for homeless is way below the requirements. There are just six functional night shelters in Bhubaneswar with a capacity of less than 400 people.
Homeless populations have been termed as ‘Citymakers’ in ActionAid and other studies. In the present study as well in other studies our finding was that majority of the homeless population work as construction workers who literally build the city along with other homeless people. Thus the term citymaker gives them more dignity to homeless population which recognizes their role in the city apart from being citizens of the city.
The objective of the study is to enumerate the homeless people in Bhubaneswar, find about their living conditions and recommend suitable action to improve their living standards and enable them to live a life of dignity. The major findings of the study are:
The highest concentration of homeless individuals is found at places with the most opportunities for employment and shelter like temples, shopping complexes, railway stations, bus stand, cinema halls and hospitals. 79% of the homeless population is male. Females constituted 21%. 41% are STs and SCs and 41% OBC. 97% are Hindus. 93% migrated from various districts within Odisha and the rest largely came from states like Maharashtra, Bihar, Jharkhand and West Bengal. Construction work was the most common form of economic activity that survey respondents is engaged in, representing 33% of the sample population. Begging is the next most common, at 28%, followed by rag picking, vending/ hawking goods, and domestic work.
A strong correlation is also observed between gender and income. Nearly 30% of women earn less than Rs.100 per day, compared to only 18% of their male counterparts. Out of 1,203 homeless people interviewed, 35.08% are able to save some money while 64.34% are not able to save any money. An individual’s daily income is found to vary considerably according to the specific economic activities that he or she is engaged in. Construction workers, for example, have an average daily income of Rs.271 per day, which is Rs.61 above the daily average for the total population. Beggars, by contrast, earn an average of merely Rs.105 per day, which is only about half of the overall average. Among survey respondents, nearly 60% work for more than 20 days per month, and 35% percent work for 11-20 days. Only 2% of the survey sample work for less than 10 days per month.
Out of 1,203 homeless people interviewed, 66% sleep under the open sky on pavements in very unhygienic conditions, 33% on verandas of shops, temples and public places. Just 0.58% of the homeless surveyed stay in the night shelters. Mostly the people sleeping on the pavements face difficulties in the form of bad weather, police and local goons. 47% still go for open defecation. 87% say they do not know about any smart city proposal for Bhubaneswar. 99% people said they were not consulted for any smart city proposal.
This study recommends bringing out a comprehensive policy for the homeless and urban poor. Apart from shelters, homeless population need to access a host of government programmes on various schemes on pension, ration card, education, health, livelihood, and employment guarantee programmes like MGNREGA to come out of the cycle of poverty. The smart city planning should include the homeless, who are there right at the middle of the city where it is going to be implemented. Consulting homeless under the smart city would be important as their number is quite sizeable. It is recommended that additional shelter options are required for older homeless people, with a specific emphasis on the need for a shelter for older homeless women, children and for disabled. Ensure separate shelters for single homeless women with or without children, with provision of adequate security, child care facilities, in addition to the other basic amenities and support services as outlined in the earlier orders of the Supreme Court. Ensure minimum wages for all the homeless workers (including domestic workers and so on) in the city. On this occasion MLA priyadarshi Mishra, Veteran Trade union Leader Jogendra Tripathy , Gender Specialist of Bhubaneswar smart city Limited Sarojini Brahma, Regional manager of Action aid Debabrat Patra , Programme manager Ghasiram Panda , Senior Journalist priya Ranjan sahu, Pravas samantray, programme officer of Action aid BN Durga & Secretary of CCWD sadasiv swain attended as guest

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