Support for the homeless, migrant and nomadic people in Mumbai under lockdown

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The unprecedented spread of the COVID 19 virus has left the entire world paralyzed with a vast majority of us staying within the safety of our homes. In addition to the stress on our healthcare system, this pandemic has put our social fabric under tremendous stress as well.

The 21-day lockdown announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi as a preventive measure against the spread of this disease has left nearly 2 lakh homeless people, migrant workers, and people of nomadic and denotified nomadic tribes stranded and shelterless in the city of Mumbai.

This population is 3 times more vulnerable to infectious disease such as Covid-19 given their history reduced immunity, history of respiratory disease, and low sanitation levels. Yet there are only between 8-18  shelters available to them which can house around 2000 at the most.

The homeless also face greater social and economic insecurity because of the suspension of daily wage/casual/contractual work and small businesses in the informal sector. Despite these challenges, they have not received any state support or care.

Instead incidents of police brutality and eviction have been reported making their lives even harder.

Given the urgent need that the most disadvantaged among us now face, we, concerned citizens, write this petition to you and all other responsible officers and administrators to demand safe and secure shelter and nutrition for the homeless, the migrant workers, as well as people of nomadic and denotified nomadic tribes in Mumbai.

We urge you to make all efforts to:

1)     Immediately provide 24X7 shelter for the homeless, migrant and nomadic people in the city in for the next 3 months, without any legal or bureaucratic preconditions, and in line with the minimum standards laid out by the Supreme Court of India-commissioned “Shelters for the Urban Homeless” handbook for administrators and policy makers (as per orders of the Hon’ble Apex Court in  WP(Civil) 196/2001). This can be done in vacant public properties, government schools, or in any other arrangements as may be deemed necessary.

2)     Provide critical water and sanitation facilities, including clean drinking water and soaps and sanitizers, at all shelters and across the city, with separate provision for women.

3)     Supply free rations (including flour, rice, dal, salt, sugar and oil) for all, and cooked meals for the especially vulnerable such as the elderly, children, sick, and pregnant and lactating mothers for 3 months.

4)     Grant a minimum income support of Rs. 6,000 per month, if not more, for 3 months, with additional top-ups for the elderly and single mothers in collaboration with the central government

5)     Provide regular screening, quarantine facilities, and primary healthcare for those showing symptoms or suspected of having contracted the coronavirus infection

6)     Provide information on the pandemic, its spread, and preventive measures widely and continuously, including by non-digital means.

7)     Publicly condemn the reported incidents of forceful eviction, abuse and violence against the homeless, the migrant workers and people of nomadic and denotified nomadic tribes at the hands of the police and other state agents, take action against those at fault, and make efforts to limit future violence and stigma through awareness initiatives.

8)     Ensure  the efficient and effective fulfillment of commitments and implementation of safeguards for the homeless as provided under schemes such as Mahatma Gandhi Pathkranti Yojana (2006), Deendayal Antyodaya Yojana (2011), Scheme of Shelters for Urban Homeless under the National Urban Livelihoods Mission (2013), and Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana or Housing for All (2014) in the longer run.

The homeless, migrant workers and nomadic peoples that have called Mumbai streets their home, sometimes even for generations, are an integral part of the social fabric and economic machinery of the city. We demand that every assistance be extended to them in these trying times that unfairly penalizes those that are most vulnerable.