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61 YEARS OF INDEPENDENCE BUT HOMELESS ARE STILL HOMELESS

In sixty years of Independence, India has come a long way. The country has carved a niche for itself in the field of information technology, which has thrown open a goldmine of opportunities for the middle class. A new breed of young professionals now earns much more than their parents ever did in their lifetime. And swanky malls, luxury apartments and swish cars are but an indicator of this resurgent India. Yet, we have a long way to go. Millions live in slums and farmer suicides have reached alarming proportions. Caste-based politics and communal divides are firmly entrenched in the political system as are corruption and criminalization. And our country’s security is at its lowest ebb with bomb blasts shattering any illusion we may have of being an emerging superpower. When we studied the often talked about urban and rural divide – we found out that though the nation has come a long way, but the road ahead is much longer. Our first report that reflects upon imbalanced and haphazard growth of the nation is on the homeless in the city. Large-scale migration from rural areas to cities is not a new phenomenon in India. While many reasons can be attributed to this trend, cities symbolize the hope that one can obtain at least a morsel a day. Without any support structure to fall back upon, these unskilled people begin living on open pavements, under over-bridges, road dividers, small unhygienic makeshift hutments and so on. The continued day-to-day struggle to meet basic needs gets aggravated day by day. For the rest of society, their courageous efforts are unacknowledged and they are instead ostracized and labeled as criminals. Most homeless are often labeled as criminals and denied access to basic facilities like medicine, education, water and so on. Visible at night and missing during the day, they sleep on public land. Almost everyone keeps their valuables with him or her. The majority of the homeless are involved in casual labour or daily wage labour while some are even petty businessman, tailors, vendors, watchmen and taxi drivers. A very small percentage constitutes the beggars. While the city needs the labour of the homeless for its growth, it is not willing to take the responsibility of their basic survival need of shelter. Even though the homeless constitute a large portion of the city’s population, they are invisible for the general populace. But even then these homeless, with lost hopes and shattered dreams, are optimistic and believe that their reality can be changed. The dark cover of anonymity which surrounds the homeless makes them most vulnerable among the urban poor and dehumanizes them by snatching away their basic rights. It is only when we accept that they are an integral part of society, that the homeless can be empowered to change their lives and exercise their ‘Right to Live with Dignity’. And till the humans awaken, the soul of the homeless splits the sky in two and face of God shines through ! Sudhir Sharma – NMTV News.

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