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Displacing Homeless People Will Not Make Our Cities Cleaner And Greener

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In an attempt to make the city clean and green the government is displacing slum dwellers across the national capital.  Recently, SDMC forcefully evicted homeless people under the flyover in Nizamuddin area as they were damaging the ‘beauty’ created under the flyover. These homeless people were accused of creating filth and open defecation in that area.

Earlier, between August to November 2017 the same SDMC has evicted around 1,500 homeless people from under flyover in Delhi to beautify the city. In the metropolitan cities, such cases are common where homeless people become the regular victim of government’s discriminatory actions. This is clearly a case of human rights violation.  The question that we need to ask here is that why so many homeless are forced to live on the pavements or in open streets in Delhi. The lack of adequate night shelters for the homeless people in the city is one of the major reasons why they choose to live on the streets and pavements. According to the estimate calculated by IGSSS in 2008, there are about 88,410 homeless people in Delhi.  But the Delhi government’s shelter capacity is only 16,834 across 263-night shelters. In the past couple of years, there have been many demolitions of slums coupled with lack of adequate night shelters to accommodate thousands of homeless people. How are the homeless people supposed to cope up with this?

The condition of the existing night shelters in Delhi is not upto the mark, forcing many to choose streets over these shelters. The state of toilets and other essential amenities like cooler, water etc. are terrible inside the shelters.  There are very few shelters with the facility of the kitchen. The cases of stealing, safety, molestations and harassments by the police and sometimes by the caretakers inside the shelters are also very common. The DUSIB runs night Shelters through the Shelter Management Agencies. These agencies are selected by the invitation of tender for a contract of one year, which is generally renewed every year. DUSIB has already invited tender for this year. One of the problematic things about this tender process is that whoever bids the lowest gets selected. In adopting this method, the government is prioritising money only to decide who can get the best services for the homeless people. Due to this strategy of awarding the tenders by DUSIB majority of the night shelter are bagged by few SMAs only. In this way, the running of night shelters are becoming a matter of commerce, and thus irregularity in their services become very common. There are many other clauses in the tender guidelines of DUSIB which prohibit the new agencies to take over the shelters.  In the guidelines of DUSIB there has been no mention of the social audit to check the functioning of these night shelters, and thus the problems existing in the shelters are left unresolved.

Moreover, DUSIB hasn’t conducted any proper survey to assess the conditions for homeless people in Delhi. The last DUSIB study done in 2014 on the orders of NHRC had grossly underestimated the number of homeless in Delhi by claiming it to be just 17, 000. The Delhi government sees the issue of homelessness as a temporary problem.  According to the current occupancy status report of DUSIB dashboard, out of 198-night shelters, 115 are portacabin and rest is permanent buildings.  In a city where thousands of people migrate in search of work, treating the issue of homeless as a temporary problem reflects on the ignorance of the government. Among all the homeless population about 30% of them is permanently living in the night shelters which testify the fact that homelessness is not a temporary issue and this myth needs to be broken.

The current central government always takes pride in saying that they have launched major policies like PMAY, Smart City Mission, among many others to address the problems of the poor. But none of them has any components that address the issues of the homeless in the city. The only scheme which looks after the homeless in the city is NUML that was enacted by the previous government in 2013. So it is vividly clear that why the homeless people in Delhi are forced to live on the streets.  The reason behind these abysmal conditions of the homeless in the city is the failure of the government to provide them with a roof and essential services.  The removal of homeless from even the streets and pavements as we saw in the case of Nizamuddin flyover is the shameless act of the SDMC municipality which needs to be condemned.

The government should come up with a strong policy on homeless people in Delhi which not only protect the homeless people by providing a roof to them but also properly rehabilitate them and help them to get a dignified life in the city. Kerala government’s project to address the issue of homeless people could be a role model here. In 2016, the state launched LIFE (livelihood, inclusion & financial empowerment) scheme to safeguard the lives of homeless people.  Under this project, the Kerala government has taken a vow to provide all the homeless in the state home and land to the landless along with skill-based training.  Cities do not become beautiful by merely maintaining the cleanliness and greenery but rather by restoring the socioeconomic equality among the different section of the society.

The author is part of urban poverty team of Indo Global Social Service Society and also the member of Shehari Adhikar Manch: Begharo Ke Sath(SAM: BKS)Delhi.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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