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  • Writer's pictureKhushi Khan

Homeless: The Invisible Lot of India

It is high time, that socio-political sentience is created around the issue of homelessness in India, writes Khushi Khan.


Image Source: The Borgen Project - https://borgenproject.org/tag/homelessness-in-india/

Maybe surrounded by a million people's eye

I still feel all alone

Just wanna go home!

-Michael Bubble ‘Home’


This song reflects the deep human desire to find a place of physiological security and psychological comfort to call ‘home.’ But what if one has no such place to go back to? What if it is the broad pavement near the traffic lights, an iron bridge above a river, or an empty cemented bench in the park that one calls their home? It inevitably becomes an administrative and more importantly a human imperative to comprehend these little homes at every corner of the road as not a littered distortion of modern urban spaces but as an indelible imprint on the impoverished reality of the world’s fifth-largest economy!


Abandonment In India: Marred Statistics



Both these definitions when compared simply showcase that there is hardly any difference between the legal understanding of an ‘orphan’ and an ‘abandoned’ child (as also confirmed by Bombay High Court in Nest India Foundation vs State of Maharashtra, 2022). However, what these definitions do not focus on is that the act of deserting in the case of abandoned children cannot be just physical but also emotional (perhaps making living in the house unbearable). This kind of emotional deserting is not covered under any act, and most kids fall prey to this mental ignorance or abuse.


One in five districts in the country does not have even a single orphanage. Most districts do not have the minimum three orphanages needed (one for children of less than 6 years of age and one each for boys and girls of 6-18 years respectively).

Abandonment and Gender: Women of the Roads and Women on the Roads


What is even more shocking is that as per Smile A Pledge Foundation nine out of ten of India’s abandoned children are girls. This imbalanced ratio emanates from the fact, that it is often the girls who are abandoned because of patriarchal mindsets, a factor which also reduces the number of female adoptions. These public spaces are where these girls grow up, leading to their constant exploitation, both mental and physical. They often become a medium of venting out lust, for truck drivers on major national highways in India, sooner or later forcing them into prostitution and human trafficking across porous South Asian borders.


As per Smile A Pledge Foundation nine out of ten of India’s abandoned children are girls.

Power Dominance in Public Spaces

Additionally, the spatial-power nexus as explained by Cornwall (drawing upon the work of French theorists such as Foucault and Bourdieu) showcases that the very thought of a public place organically invokes the subsequent imagery of a possible boundary, based on one’s discourses or identities Slowly, with societal conditioning and governmental reinforcement via ‘beautification drives’, these kids as well as those around them, get trapped in Antonio Gramsci’s false consciousness and accept it as their fate!


What is the solution?


No matter how much one wishes to solve these issues at an individual level, there is an indispensable need to engage governmental bodies in several ways, such as -


ENSURING HEALTH AND HYGIENE

Installation of clean public toilets, restrooms, and shower stations is a must. Along with this community kitchens can work towards providing them regular meals. Even governmental collaboration via food schemes can help in this regard. Clean water tanks should be easily accessible. Shelter homes must be well maintained.


ENSURING SECURITY

City administration must remain vigilant about the security of these girls. Protection groups must be made active. Wi-Fi must be set up in public places so that any causality can be reported as soon as possible. Drives to make these homeless kids aware of their rights must be held frequently. Even public lockers can be a good medium to help these girls secure their belongings.


TARGETING THE ROOT PROBLEM

The ground issue of abandonment must be addressed by strengthening punishment against child abandonment mentioned under the JJ Act, 2015. Safer mediums of surrendering a child, raising awareness about CARA, the MTP Act, and family planning must be initiated.


Conclusion


It is high time, that socio-political sentience is created around this issue. A long-term plan to institutionalize these kids must be configured with short-term solutions to make them feel loved and secure in the hustling modern urban public spaces. Let us be more kind, after all, we all are just ‘walking each other home.



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