Thursday, August 23, 2012

Homeless in New Delhi

Homeless in New Delhi, India: homeless men sleep in an old water fountain, of course with no bathing or toilet facilities. With 1.22 billion people, India is the second most populous country in the world (after China) & has an estimated 78 million homeless, mostly living in urban areas. India also has the second fastest growing economy in Asia & has been called the “poor little rich country” since immense wealth coexists with extreme poverty. India has 55 billionaires & this is the first year in the past several when at least two of them have not been among the richest people in the world. Most of them made their fortunes in construction, real estate, steel, & technology. But they’re not building affordable housing. And while India does not have affordable housing, they do operate a space program, possess enormous natural resources, & have millions of working people who need jobs. In the past two decades, the homeless population has doubled, including migrants not just from other countries but from rural areas in India who all come to cities for work. They cannot afford urban rents because much of their income supports families back home. In 2003, a UN program claimed that 95% of urban space in India was maintained for the benefit of the most privileged 5% of the population & in fact, gentrification programs have massively increased homelessness (& is probably implicated in the huge number of slum fires). Many have reported on the rampant corruption & land scams among politicians & urban development authorities where land intended for affordable housing is sold to politicians & social elite. A current scandal involves the Indian government selling coal fields to private companies without competitive bidding; this gave the coal companies a windfall profit of $34 billion from the low prices they paid. $34 billion would build a lot of affordable housing. Housing isn't just a crying need; it's a human right!  (Photo by Kevin Frayer/AP)

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