Homeless India

In this article, Musaib Khan of KIIT School of law discusses the laws and policies formulated for the homeless in India.


According to the census report of 2011, approximately 13.75 million households or approximately 65-70 million people reside in urban slums. The central idea revolving around the article is to provide the laws and redressal methods available for redressing the issue of homelessness in India. [i]

Duty of the Government’s to provide shelter to its citizen under the Constitution of India

Fundamental Rights under the Constitution of India which guarantees the protection of the right to adequate housing

  1. Article 21: Right to protection of life and personal liberty. In the pavement dwellers case (Oliga Tellis v. Bombay Municipal Corporation), the apex court held that Article 21 of Constitution gives the right to life and gave wide meaning as, “It does not mean merely that life cannot be extinguished or taken away as, for e.g., by imposition and execution of death sentence, except according to procedure established by law.
  2. Article 14 and Article 19: The apex court has included Article 14, 19 and 21 and recognized them as a deciding factor for a dignity of an individual. The states are under an obligation to protect the dignity of an individual by securing a household for the homeless.

Along with the above provisions, Constitution also provides for the following safeguards to homeless people

  1. Article 39 (1): State policy to be directed in order to secure for both men and women, equal right to an adequate means of livelihood.
  2. Article 42: Provisions to be made by the State for securing just and humane conditions of work and for maternity relief.
  3. Article 47: Duty of the State to raise the level of nutrition and the standard of living and to improve public health.

The apex court orders in favour of the homeless – PUCL v. Union of India and Others

The much alarming issue of the homelessness was brought to the notice of the Supreme Court in the ‘right to food case’ in the year 2010 (PUCL v. Union of India and Others).[ii]. This led to the passing of an order by the apex court of the country to meet the essential need of the urban homeless to the ratio of at least 1 shelter per 100,000 population at every major urban area. The order of the court also stated that the shelter homes should remain functional for 365 days and 24*7, and shouldn’t be available only for a particular season.

Deendayal Antyodaya Yojana – National Urban Livelihoods Mission

  1. The aspects of the evil existing in our society i.e., urban poverty can be broadly classified into three brackets:
  2. Residential vulnerability (access to the basic amenities like land, water, food, etc.);
  3. Social vulnerability (deprivations related to factors like gender, age, and social stratification, lack of social protection, inadequate voice and participation in governance structures, etc.) and
  4. Occupational vulnerability (uncertain livelihoods, dependence on informal sector for employment and earnings, uncertain job security, unfit working conditions, etc.).
  5. These vulnerabilities are connected to each other somehow i.e. they are interrelated. The recent observation of the apex court has brought into limelight the difficulties and the plight which is being faced by the urban homeless and has also thrown a light by declaring that providing dignified shelters and the right associated with is a very important element under ‘Right to life’ i.e., Article 21 of the Indian constitution which calls for a fastrack need to evolve policy and programmes for the urban homeless.[iii]
  6. The Ministry of Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation (MHUPA) has implemented a scheme which has been sponsored centrally i.e., Swarna Jayanti Shahari Rozgar Yojana (SJSRY) since 1997 which has been reconstituted as Deendayal Antyodaya Yojana – National Urban Livelihoods Mission since September 2013. The NULM since September 24, 2013, has been implemented in all district headquarters (irrespective of the population) and all the cities with a population of 1 lakh or more. [v]

NULM (National Urban Livelihoods Mission)

  • According to the latest official data, merely 658 shelters have been created since the launch of the Shelter for Homeless programme under the National Urban Livelihood Mission (NULM) in 2013.
  • These shelters across the country cater to a total homeless population of 35,000. This does not even amount to five percent of the total urban homeless population of 9.38 lakh.[vi]
  • There are only 658 shelters in 18 states. Of these, states such as West Bengal, Uttarakhand, Punjab, Odisha, Gujarat, and Chhattisgarh hold a poor record of creating between one to five shelters each.
  • There is also the underlying prejudice that looks at the homeless as migrants who need not be provided for. While the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (PMAY) has been expanded to include even the middle classes, little is being done to resolve the issue of homelessness.

Types of shelters under the NULM Scheme

  1. Men shelters: As the men in number are higher and hence shelters for single men should be built to cater to their needs.
  2. Women shelters: In order to secure the homeless women and their children, such shelter homes should be built.
  3. Family shelters: Separate family shelters with adequate privacy and separate rooms should be provided.
  4. Special shelters: It shall cater to the special needs of the persons such as old persons without care, mentally ill, sick persons, recovering patients and their families and other special circumstances.

You may contact one of these if you want to avail the services of a shelter house under the NULM Scheme

  • Homeless persons’ collectives –

An example is Aashray Adhikar Abhiyan, S-442, II Floor, School Block Shakarpur, New Delhi, 9312668807

  • Youth and Women’s community-based groups-

An example is Humana People to People India, 111/9-Z, Kishangarh, Aruna Asaf Ali Marg, Vasant Kunj, New Delhi,011-4746-2222

  • Universities and Institutions,

An example is Nehru Yuva Kendras. Core – IV, IInd Floor, Scope Minar, Laxmi Nagar District Centre, Delhi, 91-11-22446070

  • NGOs and CSOs registered under the Societies Registration Act, 1860 and Trust Acts or other similar laws of the State Governments

Example, DAYA, HIG 3/138 Satyasai Enclave, Khandagiri, Bhubaneswar, 94383 39180

  • Self Help Groups and committees recognized by the State govt/ Urban Self Governments-

Example, Rehab India Foundation, N-44, Ground Floor, Hilal Homes,2nd Stage, Abul Fazal Enclave, Jamia Nagar, Okhla, 91-11-29946637

  • Resident Welfare Associations –

Example, Nihal Vihar Resident Welfare Association, RZ-C-60 ,, Nihal Vihar, Nangloi, Delhi,  091364 01932

List of few NGOs looking after homeless

S.no. Name of NGO Address Contact number E-mail address
1 Urja trust C/o,129/A, Lattif Villa Compound, near Ranjit Film Studio, Dada Saheb Falke Road,, Dadar (E), Mumbai – 400014 981980626 [email protected]
2. Akshay trust 9, West Main Street                                                                                        Doak Nagar Extension                                                                                Madurai — 625 016, INDIA 9843319933 http://www.akshayatrust.org/contactus.php
3. Uday foundation 113A/1, Adchini, Sri Aurobindo Marg, New Delhi 110017 9126561444 inf[email protected]
4. Fuel a Dream No 126, 4th Floor,

KHB Colony, 5th Block,

Koramangala, Bangalore,

560095 Karnataka India

973900409 [email protected]
5. Goonj J-93, Sarita Vihar, New Delhi-76 011-26972351,41401216 [email protected]
6. Butterflies U-4, Green Park Extension, New Delhi +91-11- 46471000 [email protected]
7. Calcutta Rescue 4th Floor, 85 Collin Street, Kolkata 700 016, Nearest Metro Park Street +91(0)33 4064827 [email protected]
8. Hope Kolkata 39, Panditya Place,

Kolkata – 700029.

West Bengal, India


Tel: +91 33 24742904 [email protected]
9. Good life centre 7-B Loganathan Street, (Near Vidya Theatre),

West Tambaram,

Chennai – 600045, India

94449 94151 [email protected]
10. DAYA HIG 3/138 Satyasai Enclave, Khandagiri


94383 39180 [email protected]

Criticism of NULM Scheme

The main criticism which NULM has is that this policy’s approach to the problem of homelessness has always been to provide the homeless individual a ‘temporary’ shelter. It has so far not addressed as to how to render the homeless people any such kind of scheme which would entitle them to possess a permanent dwelling of their own with basic living standard entities. Bilal, 80, came to India from Pakistan 25 years ago. He is now a regular in one of the rain baseras (night shelters) near Nizamuddin.[viii]

So far in India, no such law or policy or order has come out which has tried to ensure homeless people has access to medium- and long-term housing options. They are not, for example, included in the Housing for All Scheme.[ix]

Initiative by State government

The ongoing litigation regarding the PIL in the Supreme court of India (E.R. Kumar v. Union of India and Ors.) where the apex court has directed the States to file an affidavit regarding the status of the homeless person in their States. Many states have started complying and have started building shelter homes and rain baseras for the homeless but still, there are many states who haven’t yet complied with the directions of the apex court.

Criminalisation of Homelessness

Homeless people live in extreme insecurity, not knowing when they will be beaten by the police or arrested or implicated in false cases. Homelessness is liable to be punished under certain laws prevalent in India. Begging has been criminalized in 20 States and 2 Union Territories which shows the approach of the social embarrassment towards poverty and the encroachment of public spaces. The legislation allows the police officials and judges to confine them in government-run institutions which clearly violates their fundamental principles. You can read more about begging laws through this link.

State law compiled on homelessness

Leilani Farha- A special report

United Nations (UN) Special Rapporteur on the Right to Adequate Housing, Leilani Farha had visited India in April, 2016 and has recommended strongly that the Indian policymakers should gear up and frame and implement a policy completely based on human rights and that policy should be a housing policy targeting the people living on the streets and slums in order to eradicate poverty and inequality.

Case study- E. R. Kumar and Anr. v. Union of India and Ors.[x]

  1. This is an ongoing case in the Supreme court of India regarding homelessness in India.
  2. The court had directed the Secretary/ Administrator of the State/ Union territories to file an affidavit as to the implementation of this particular scheme which was forwarded to the Chief Secretary/ Administrator to file a collective affidavit and meanwhile it was ordered by the court to the Ministry of Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation to find out ways to achieve the objectives of the policy.
  3. The court had formed an Executive Committee to be constituted under the chairpersonship of the Secretary, Ministry of Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation which shall work towards the smooth functioning of the different plans, schemes and different departments in order to function the policy smoothly.
  4. The Hon’ble court has also ordered for a regular observation of the implementation of this policy. The court has also laid a great emphasis on not only the quantity of the shelter homes but also towards the quality of the shelter homes.
  5. The court came down heavily on the States since they were not satisfied with the steps that have been taken by the States/ Union Territories to lessen down the number of homeless people.
  6. The PIL was filed in the year 2003 and yet till 2014 the States and UT’s have failed to submit the status report.
  7. A committee has been constituted under the guidance of Justice Kailash Gambhir in order to cause physical verification of the shelters, to check whether they are complying with the operational guidelines, allocation/ non-allocation, use and misuse of the funds and also to ensure that time ensured guidelines are being fulfilled so that at least minimum facilities are provided in the winter season.

A bench of Justices Madan B Lokur and Deepak Gupta asked Solicitor General Ranjit Kumar to ensure that the report of the Justice Kailash Gambhir commission is uploaded on the official website of the Ministry of Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation for perusal and necessary action by the Centre and the states. This has been the latest development in the particular case.

Provisions for the homeless under the international arena

  1. Under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 25 recognizes the right to housing as a necessary condition to assure right to an adequate standard of living.
  2. Under the International Covenant on Economic, Social, Cultural Rights, Article 11(1) also guarantees the same standard of living for assuring adequate standard of living.

In the wake of the alarming issue of the homeless people, surviving on the streets, roads, footpaths for the entire year and where our government despite strict orders and instructions issued by the apex court since years has not taken enough measures to culminate the evil existing in our country. This has led to a serious exploitation of human rights involving child abuse, sexual exploitation, right to life with dignity, etc. Though a policy has been framed which has come under the watch of the Supreme Court which has issued orders and directions to the State governments and Union territories but yet the action by them has been very slow. The call of the hour is a national level policy should be framed that should target towards providing permanent dwelling to the homeless people unlike the current target of just providing a temporary shelter to the homeless people.



[i]  http://hlrn.org.in/homelessness.

[ii] PUCL v. Union of India and Others, W. P. (C) 196/ 2001.

[iii] http://nulm.gov.in/PDF/NULM_Mission/NULM_mission_document.pdf.

[iv] Ibid.


[vi] SC asks govt to upload the report on shelter for urban homeless, 2nd May 2017, The Indian Express.

[vii] http://www.iasparliament.com/current-affairs/dealing-with-homelessness.

[viii] India must ensure that homeless people have access to housing options, 20th August 2016, Hindustan Times.

[ix] Ibid.

[x] W.P. (C) 55/2003.


Did you find this blog post helpful? Subscribe so that you never miss another post! Just complete this form…


  1. The union government, in 2015, announced – ‘Housing for All by 2022’ – a scheme targeting to develop nearly two crore homes across urban locations in the country over the next five years. The Union Budget 2017 reinforced the government’s commitment, promising a range of boosters to promote the growth of affordable housing sector.