India’s homeless population has declined to just 17.73 lakh people, new Census data claims. The two megacities known for their large homeless populations — Mumbai and Delhi — have just 57,416 and 46,724 homeless people respectively, The Hindu ’s analysis of Census data shows.
The number includes both those permanently without a house and those temporarily homeless like truck-drivers passing through the city, Census Commissioner and Registrar General of India C. Chandramouli told The Hindu .
Rural homelessness declined by 30% to 8.3 lakh people, while urban homelessness grew by 21% to 9.4 lakh people, the data says. Uttar Pradesh has nearly one-fifth of the country’s homeless, and Maharashtra follows with 12%. Other states with significant proportions of homeless are Rajasthan (10%), Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat and West Bengal (8%).
The city with the largest homeless population is Kanpur in Uttar Pradesh (80,877 people), followed by Kolkata (69,798), Mumbai (57,416 ), Delhi (46,724) and Surat (36,144). The official homeless population includes 2.7 lakh children.
However, housing rights activists disputed the data. “Delhi has at least 1.5 lakh homeless people. Thousands of homeless people were not enumerated during the census,” housing rights activist Indu Prakash Singh of Shehari Adhikar Manch:Begharon Ke Saath, told The Hindu . Mr. Singh, who said he was present when enumerators conducted the survey in New Delhi, said the Census sent too few people and they spent too little time. “In our eyes, the homeless census was a fraud and a farce,” Mr. Singh said. The impact of under-counting the homeless was that too few funds were allocated for them, he said.