The Coronavirus Pandemic / COVID-19

The public health crisis caused by COVID-19 has created an unprecedented situation across the world with states struggling to treat infected persons and contain the spread of the virus. As with every crisis, the already marginalized, excluded, and discriminated individuals, groups, and communities are most vulnerable and continue to suffer disproportionately from this pandemic and related state response, especially from lockdowns and resultant loss of livelihoods, income, food, and shelter.

In India, at least 4 million people living in homelessness in urban areas and over 70 million people living in 'informal settlements' are particularly vulnerable to contracting and spreading this disease, as a result of their insufficient protection, inadequate living conditions, high population density, low levels of nutrition, and lack of access to adequate healthcare and basic services, especially water and sanitation.

Measures to contain the spread of the virus, including the state-imposed nationwide lockdown have further taken a huge toll on the country's informal sector workers, including homeless persons, migrant workers, and agricultural labourers, who were left unemployed overnight without housing and food.

Housing and Land Rights Network (HLRN) has concentrated its efforts towards assisting the most vulnerable and marginalized communities by:

  • Monitoring the living conditions of homeless persons and those living in inadequate housing;
  • Providing and facilitating the delivery of food and other essential items to those in need;
  • Engaging in sustained advocacy with the central and state governments;
  • Proposing relief measures and interventions based on a human rights framework;
  • Compiling information on positive relief measures and state policies for marginalized communities, especially homeless people and stranded migrant workers; and,
  • Disseminating important information regarding impacts of the crisis on India's vulnerable groups.
HLRN Relief Work

During the coronavirus pandemic and related lockdown in India, HLRN is assisting homeless persons and those living without adequate housing, including stranded migrant workers, in various ways. This includes facilitating the provision of shelter, food, and other essential commodities. With the enforcement of a nationwide lockdown and sealing of containment zones to prevent the spread of the virus, homeless people and those living in 'informal settlements', especially those dependent on daily wages, have lost their livelihoods. As a result, hunger poses a major challenge to these vulnerable communities. The lack of access to water, sanitation, soap, sanitizer, and masks also increases their vulnerability to the spread of the virus. Moreover, homeless persons living on the streets and migrant workers have been forced to move to emergency shelters which may not necessarily be adequate and often against their will.

Through its team and extensive network, HLRN is closely monitoring the situation of marginalized communities, on a daily basis, including their access to food, shelter, healthcare, water, sanitation, soaps, sanitizers, and masks as well as other issues affecting them. Particularly in Delhi, HLRN is documenting living conditions in permanent and emergency shelters as well as informal settlements. We are facilitating the provision of food and other essential commodities by coordinating with communities in need, shelter management agencies, government helplines, political representatives, and other local organizations. Additionally, in collaboration with other voluntary organizations, HLRN is providing food and ration to persons in need, where possible. We are also facilitating the provision of adequate shelter to homeless person living on the streets and to migrant workers stranded in the cities. Demands of affected communities are being regularly conveyed to the government and through our advocacy, we have been able to improve access to basic services, shelter, food, and other essential items for a large number of people living in destitution.

In collaboration with local organizations, HLRN has helped provide ration/cooked food to over 100,000 people since the beginning of the national lockdown on 25 March 2020. Since May 2020, we have been running a community kitchen to provide tea and free cooked meals to homeless persons in Mori Gate, Delhi. In partnership with the Information and Resource Centre for Deprived Urban Communities, we are also assisting homeless people and communities living in remote resettlement sites in Chennai and Madurai with ration/food and other essential items.

In all our work and interventions, HLRN is advocating for a strong human rights approach to all COVID-19 related response and recovery measures.