Meeting the Urban Poor in Ernakulum District–Yatra Day 10

     Ekta Parishad does most of its work in rural India but today we learnt that urban poverty is probably more devastating on human dignity than rural poverty.

The yatra attended the “Assembly of the homeless poor” organized by  Lease and Rent House Welfare Association of Ernakulam. The members of the association are people who live in precarious housing conditions. Many of them either live in slums under the control of a slumlord or in poorly maintained, small and unsafe houses. They are subjected to humiliation by their owners on a regular basis. These living conditions directly affect the dignity and sense of self-worth of the residents.

    500 people participated in the meeting, with a majority of women and most of whom were from the Muslim community. The Kerala government has been settling dalits and adivasis in separate colonies and in the  last 20 years, 26,000 such colonies have been created all over Kerala. The leaders of the association stated that residents of these colonies do not enjoy settlement rights i.e., permanent housing rights. The increasing population and changing economic conditions are forcing the residents of these colonies to migrate to big cities. There are roughly 50,000 people who do not enjoy proper housing rights.

   The leaders also stated that currently 14,000 acres of land under the control of different plantations is not being used for plantation. They are demanding that this land be allotted to the homeless. The association mobilizes people around the issue of right to a decent place to live, facilitates dialog between the police and homeless poor in resolving disputes, and carry out policy advocacy work for ensuring security, dignity and human rights. They are demanding a housing policy that includes the following 1.) a leasing law that is pro-poor, pro-tenant as opposed to one favouring the owner 2.) A grievance cell be set up to resolve issues between the house owner and tenants, 3.) A rent-control system to protect tenants from exploitative owners .

After the meeting, there was a small group discussion with about 20 leading people from the association and community.

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