THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The State’s plan to construct shelter homes for urban poor has been met with shocking indifference. Urban local body leaders and heads of state-run welfare homes were asked to identify buildings or vacant lots for the purpose before April 10. None are yet to get back to the Social Justice Department with a proposal. The project was intended to provide shelters to the increasing number of homeless people in urban areas, most of whom incidentally are migrant workers.
Since the Department has 70-odd welfare homes for various categories across the state with large unutilised land to boot, it was decided to locate urban homes within these premises. The fear of having adults, especially migrant labourers, near children’s or old age homes is said to be the apparent reason for the silent opposition. “The Jisha murder seems to have painted the entire migrant worker community as dangerous,” a top Social Justice official said. “What this fear fails to acknowledge is the reality of hundreds of migrant women and children living in the open, exposed to the elements and violence and with no access to basic hygiene requirements,” the official added.
Though the Centre has been cutting down its share in major centrally sponsored schemes, 75 percent of the funds for the urban shelter project will come from the Centre under the National Urban Livelihoods Mission (NULM). The major objective of the scheme is to provide the homeless access to permanent shelters including basic infrastructure facilities like water supply, sanitation, safety and security. These homes will not be the standard-issue one or two room squat concrete structures.
“These homes will cater to the needs of the especially vulnerable segments of the urban homeless like dependent children, the aged, the disabled, the mentally ill and the seriously ill by creating special sections within the shelters,” the official said. Once the homeless are protected within shelters, entitlements like social security pensions and ration could be easily distributed. For instance, the migrant workers in construction sites live in pigsty-like conditions in makeshift camps. They are virtually outside the mainstream, with no health cards or other entitlement keys like BPL or rations cards. There is no proper floor to sleep on, and without drainage facilities, toilets overflow with human excreta. Major epidemics are said to break out from such unhygienic camps.