A LARGE number of people are said to have remained homeless even 50 years after independence, mainly because of the lack of political will of successive governments that failed to draw up appropriate, comprehensive plans for a proper implementation. Although there is no standard definition of who constitute homeless people and there is no definite, or even close, figure on the number of homeless people, various official documents suggest that the number of homeless people stands roughly at 8.5 million in 2021. The number is said to be on the increase as there were a little less than 1 million homeless people in 1991 and the number increased to 1.13 million in 2001 and to 4.6 million in 2010. It is a fundamental responsibility of the state to attain, through a planned economic growth, a constant increase in productive forces and a steady improvement in the material and cultural standards of living of the people, with a view to securing for its citizens, as Article 15 (a) of the constitution of the republic stipulates, ‘the provision of the basic necessities of life, including food, clothing, shelter, education and medical care’ while the United Nations identifies adequate housing as a fundamental human right, defining it as ‘the right to live somewhere in security, peace and dignity.’
The state of being homeless for so many people — experts believe that the actual number of homeless people is much higher than any government estimation or projection though — has continued because of the failure of successive governments to attend to inequality and poverty that are intrinsically related to homelessness although there are some other factors contributing to the state in question such as the loss of land to river erosion or the destruction of houses by natural calamities that successive governments do not appear to have effectively addressed. Government efforts have sometimes been noticed in temporary or short-term projects taken up to provide shelter for homeless people but in most of the cases, the benefits have not lasted for long in the absence of appropriate measures. The government is implementing a housing project called Ashrayan to provide shelter for the homeless. The project spanning between 1997 and 2022 has erected 357,590 housing units for the homeless people. But experts view such initiatives to be a showcase of the government’s ‘projection of development’, with little bearings on the resolution of the state of such a large number of people being homeless. What successive governments should have done was to address inequality and reduce poverty so that efforts could effectively stand the homeless people in a position for them to build their own houses.
The government must, in such a situation, carry out the needed land reforms and show the political will in effectively attending to growing inequality, with the rich becoming richer now and the poor poorer, and in reducing poverty across the regions by creating or facilitating employment and reaching the economic benefits to all, especially the poor and low-income people. The government must understand that it also warrants good governance for all this to roll to a sustainable resolution.
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