Delhi’s population has been growing over the years and with it the number of people braving the icy North Indian winter. Cold waves are an annual feature and so are the frozen bodies of homeless people. According to reports in the media, in 2002 the police found 3,040 corpses during the winter. Of these, no fewer than 400 were those of people who died in a single cold wave.
However, the government has done precious little to build a comprehensive policy on urban homelessness or even conducted a proper census of the homeless. Even the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) admits that at least 1 per cent of the population in Delhi is homeless. This means that no fewer than 140,000 people live on the streets of Delhi. This figure does not include those who sleep in carts or rickshaws or under flimsy plastic-sheet roofs.
Homelessness may be caused by a variety of factors, but the coincidence of increased levels of poverty and decreased numbers of affordable housing often to blame. Other notable causes may include:
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