Indian state vows to end homelessness with free flats

The state has surveyed its homeless population, and will build more than 400,000 homes for those who qualify. (Shutterstock)
Updated 27 April 2019
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Indian state vows to end homelessness with free flats

  • Kerala’s model is the only viable solution to end homelessness, said Shivani Chaudhry, executive director of HLRN

BANGKOK: The Indian state of Kerala is offering free flats to homeless people, an ambitious model that activists say other states must follow as a nationwide “Housing for All” plan falls short.
The first 145 families moved into their newly constructed flats in a 270-unit complex in Adimali town in southern India this month, a state official said.
The state has surveyed its homeless population, and will build more than 400,000 homes for those who qualify, said U.V. Jose, chief executive of the LIFE Mission, a government agency overseeing the project.
“Those without a home are the poorest, most vulnerable. Many cannot afford to buy a home, no matter how cheap it is,” Jose told the Thomson Reuters Foundation on Thursday.
“A home is a basic necessity. With a home, they can feel more secure and confident, and they can focus on other matters, which can improve the quality of their life,” he said.
Each unit will cost about 400,000 rupees ($5,700) to build, and will be wholly funded by the government, Jose said.
This is in contrast to the federal housing scheme, which offers subsidised loans for home purchases.

NATION ON THE MOVE
With rapid urbanization, a shortage of affordable homes has spurred the growth of slums and informal settlements in cities across India. There are 1.77 million homeless people nationwide, according to the 2011 census data, although rights groups say the actual figure is at least three times higher.
The government plan, Housing for All, is meant to create 20 million new urban housing units and 30 million rural homes by 2022. But the rollout has been slow, and campaigners say it will not fix the issue of homelessness and informal settlements.
Some states are improving slum conditions, and assuring residents they will not be evicted for some years.
In eastern Odisha state, authorities have promised land titles to 200,000 households in urban slums and those on city outskirts, as well as loans to build homes.
But for others, evictions are a daily threat.
At least 11 million people in India risk being uprooted from their homes and land as authorities build highways and airports and cordon off forests, according to advocacy group Housing and Land Rights Network (HLRN).
Kerala’s model is the only viable solution to end homelessness, said Shivani Chaudhry, executive director of HLRN.
“The government’s ‘housing for all’ scheme has no provisions for the homeless, and all interventions by the center and the state governments have been limited to providing temporary shelters,” she said.
“This initiative by the Kerala government attempts to shift the focus from ‘shelters’ to ‘housing’. This is welcome and much needed, as it is the only way that the issue of homelessness can be addressed,” she said.
($1 = 70.2113 Indian rupees)


In Texas, Trump and Modi vow relentless fight on extremists

Updated 7 min 59 sec ago

In Texas, Trump and Modi vow relentless fight on extremists

  • Taking the flavor of one of Trump’s own boisterous rallies, Modi later asked the crowd to give a standing ovation to Trump for his stance

HOUSTON: US President Donald Trump and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday declared themselves united in a relentless fight against “terrorism,” vowing a close, personal alliance in front of tens of thousands of Indian-Americans.

The two leaders, like-minded nationalists fond of fiery rallies and skeptical of traditional media, heaped praise on each other in an unusual joint appearance inside a football stadium in Houston.

To the bhangra beats of four drummers in saffron turbans, Trump in his dark suit and Modi in a yellow kurta and vest made a grand entrance with arms clenched together to ecstatic cheers from a crowd estimated by organizers at 50,000.

Trump won his biggest applause when he told the crowd, many wearing the saffron of India’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, “We are committed to protecting innocent civilians from the threat of radical Islamic terrorism.”

Taking the flavor of one of Trump’s own boisterous rallies, Modi later asked the crowd to give a standing ovation to Trump for his stance.

Protesters gathered outside of the NRG Stadium with placards and shirts that said, “Free Kashmir” and accused Modi of violating religious freedom — a cause frequently evoked by the Trump administration.

The event — dubbed, with a Texan twang, “Howdy, Modi!” — was billed as the largest gathering ever by a foreign leader other than the pope in the US.

Hoping to ensure that it remains bipartisan, organizers also invited prominent Democrats.

Presidential contender Bernie Sanders, who did not attend, was more direct, saying that Trump showed a “deafening silence” on the clampdown in Kashmir.

“I know that when a president stays silent in the face of religious persecution, repression and brutality, the dangerous message this sends to authoritarian leaders around the world is, ‘Go ahead, you can get away with it,’” Sanders wrote in the Houston Chronicle.

Speaking of his record as if on the campaign trail, Trump made no mention of many Indians’ concerns over US visa policy — but highlighted his efforts to turn back undocumented immigrants from Central America.

Hardly known for his celebrations of ethnic diversity, Trump said to Indian-Americans, “We love you.”

“You enrich our culture, you uphold our values, you uplift our communities and you are truly proud to be American — and we are proud to have you as Americans,” he said.

Sporting a vest in yellow embroidery from Modi’s home state of Gujarat as well as a cap in the Indian tricolor, Bhavin Parikh of Sacramento, California said he wanted to show support for Modi and called the event “historic” due to Trump’s presence.

But he demurred on whether the gathering indicated backing Trump.

“It is not a question of Democrat or Republican. It’s the American president supporting the Indian prime minister,” he said.