Darkness under Lamps:
Urban Slums and Food Entitlements in India

Harsh Mander and V Manikandan

Centre for Equity Studies


The Indian government implements some of the largest food schemes in the world. However, the reach and quality of implementation of these programmes is often most feeble and insufficient in areas that are physically the most proximate to centres of public policy formulation, namely cities and towns. This study seeks to empirically observe and assess the implementation of all existing food, livelihood and social security schemes in various indigent and deprived urban contexts, and based on the findings of coverage and gaps, suggest directions for initial strategies for effective implementation.



Hidden Hunger on City Streets: Searching for Solutions

Harsh Mander and Smita Jacob

Centre for Equity Studies


It is often assumed that hunger defaces only the rural landscape; and that although cities may engender other forms of violence, its colonies, shanties and streets are free of that most terrible form of want – of food for a hungry belly. But we discovered – in a study of homeless people that we undertook over two years in the streets of Patna, Delhi, Chennai and Madurai – hunger to be rampant, and sometimes desperate, even on city streets, although obscured in the smoggy haze of city lights.




Harsh Mander and Smita Jacob

Centre for Equity Studies


In many years of direct work with urban homeless men, women and children, and our research and field work with these populations, one of the most urgent demands that they consistently press is for community kitchens and canteens that supply not free but low-cost nutritious and hygienic hot cooked meals. We were convinced that if well-conceived and implemented, these could become indeed a most important intervention to raise the nutrition status of urban homeless women, men and children. It would also free a lot of their current daily incomes which they are forced to invest in relatively expensive street food which is typically sadly low on nutrition and hygiene.






As part of the Supreme Court-­‐directed monitoring process, two years ago (in 2012), the Office of Commissioners of the Supreme Court in written petition 196/2001 had submitted the Second National Report on the Status of Shelters for Urban Homeless to bring to the notice of the Honourable Supreme Court, the conditions of urban homeless persons in India, and the conditions of shelters for urban homeless persons in different states of India. This report outlined the large gaps infulfilment of Supreme Court’s directions to the state governments for ensuring shelters, and allied services and amenities for homeless populations.



Best practices for the implementation of urban school nutrition programs in India

An examination of decentralized and centralized Mid Day Meal models in
Delhi and Ahmedabad

Priya Shankar and Natasha S. K.

In this study, the researchers investigate the differences between two major Mid Day Meal implementation models: the decentralized model where food is cooked and served within the schools premises, and the centralized model where an external organization, often through a public-private partnership, cooks and delivers the meal to schools. Both programs induce enthusiastic feelings amongst activists, scholars, and policy makers. As a result, the researchers aim is to understand the similarities and differences between these systems with relation to fostering social equity, building community participation, increasing transparency and accountability, providing adequate quality and quantity of food to children, and serving as a source of employment for women or lower caste individuals, amongst other variables.




A Report of Save the Children, India


The Constitution of India guarantees every child the right to be safe and to be protected from all forms of abuse, violence, neglect and exploitation. This translates into every child in the country having access to basic rights of adequate food, shelter, family care, education, healthcare and play. And yet, when you look around you, in train stations, under flyovers, at traffic signals, you will see large numbers of children on the streets who , are denied of these basic rights, living in poverty, grappling with ill-health, homelessness and susceptible to all types of abuse and exploitation. These children, although visible all around us, often remain “invisible” in terms being able to access their basic rights.



Living Rough: Surviving City Streets

Harsh Mander


This paper explores lived experience of homelessness and the social, economic, nutritional situation of urban homeless men, women, boys and girls in four cities: Delhi, Chennai, Madurai and Patna. Life on the streets usually involves surviving in a physically challenging environment, with denial of even elementary public services and assured healthy food; and illegalisation and even criminalisation by a hostile State. There are both grave ruptures – but also continuities – of bonds with their families and communities. These together pose important and mostly unmet challenges for public policy and academic research, in measuring and estimating urban poverty, and in acknowledging and realizing a vast range of social, economic and cultural rights of urban poor residents.



Homelessness in Ahmedabad: Case studies from IIM Business Students

Amber Morley

Ahmedabad, Gujarat has increasingly prioritised the development of slum settlements as a way to reduce urban poverty. However, policy has often failed to address more marginalised communities, such as the homeless. This report explores over fifty oral histories of the homeless conducted by IIM-A students, supplemented by additional reports from NGOs and government departments. It seeks to provide a basic understanding of the “urban underbelly” which is often omitted from the story of India’s modernising cities, and demonstrate how a platform can be constructed for the homeless agenda.

Homeless on a Winter Night

Harsh Mander,

January 2010

It is a harsh unforgiving winter for homeless people who survive Delhi’s streets. Through long foggy nights, bleary-eyed with little sleep, they squat around tiny fires lit with dry leaves, twigs and torn clothes, desperately trying to keep out the chill. Many curl up together, sometimes under a single thin blanket, bony bodies pressed against each other, with stray dogs sliding in, all sharing body warmth. But we also encounter stiff sleeping forms of single lonely people, almost frozen in the cold. Every wintry night leaves a fresh toll of more bodies of anonymous dispensable people — rickshaw pullers, balloon sellers, women thrown to the streets by violent spouses, children who escaped abuse, abandoned old people — who could not hold out battle any further. There are no shelters of any kind for more than 90 per cent of over a hundred thousand men, women and children in the nation’s capital, for whom the open sky is their only roof.



OFF THE Mean Streets

Ashwin Parulkar

When the Rangarajan Committee submitted its report on the national poverty rate to the new minister of state for planning at the end of June, it suggested raising the urban poverty line to a daily consumption rate of R47 per person. If accepted by the new government, this revision will nearly double the official number of poor people living in India’s cities to a staggering 103 million—roughly equivalent to the entire population of Bihar. In the next decade and a half, the country’s urban population is expected to increase by more than half to 577 million. As overall population growth and rural-to-urban migration add more and more people to existing cities, and create new cities as well, the number of urban poor is only likely to grow. So, too, are the pressures on municipal governments and the state to reduce socioeconomic inequality and provide for the needs of our cities’ most deprived people.



Why ragpickers, unrecognised and unpaid, are critical for waste management in India

Rajanya Bose and Anirban Bhattacharya

IndiaSpend, 2017

Ragpickers sustain themselves by collecting, sorting and segregating waste and then trading it. In doing so, they help clean up a significant proportion of the 62 million tonnes of waste generated annually in India. This article engages with the current status of ragpicking in India as well as its implications for waste management.



‘Good for the country, not good for the poor’: Delhi’s marginal folk struggle with demonetisation

Harsh Mander, Anirban Bhattacharya, Nandini Dey and Vivek Mishra

Scroll, 2016

In markets, labour addas and homeless shelters, people struggling to make a living have been pushed over the edge by the cash crunch; and the many hardships that are bruising and crushing the lives of the poor because of the sudden withdrawal of cash from the economy are being systematically invisibilised and minimalised.

‘Who cares?’
Urban Health Care and Exclusion

Devaki Nambiar, Prathibha Ganesan and Adita Rao*

Girish Motwani, Radhika Alkazi, Ganapathy Murugan, T Sundararaman and Dipa Sinha**

In 2015, Delhi experienced possibly the worst dengue outbreak the national capital had seen in the last 20 years—the official count reaching 14,889 cases, and 32 official deaths (44 unofficial) as of November 2015.1 The heartbreaking deaths of young children in Delhi—and in one case, the double suicide of parents refusing to survive their neglected seven year-old—trained the spotlight on the gross deficiencies of the health
system: the shortage of beds, doctors, blood banks, and medicines in both the public and private sectors.2 In response, the state government sprung into action, launching a 24-hour helpline to provide all relevant information about dengue and awareness campaigns through TV and radio advertisements.3 The standard control measure of fumigation,belated and controversial,4 was redoubled.5 A number of beds were made available for treatment across hospitals 6 and limits set on prices for various tests.7 News reports dubbed dengue the great leveller, an ‘equal opportunity’ infection that did not spare Delhi’s better-off.8 Such a claim is hard to substantiate.



Tracing Exclusions in Urban Water Supply and Sanitation

Geetika Anand, Kavita Wankhade and Rajiv K. Raman*

Nearly 70 years since Independence, a large proportion of urban Indians, particularly the poor and vulnerable groups, are deprived of adequate public provisioning in water supply and sanitation. The discourse of ‘urban’ is increasingly being captured through the rhetoric of ‘Smart Cities’, even as urban residents are yet to receive basic services. Albeit late, sanitation has now occupied centre-stage in India’s policy framework through the current government’s flagship: Swacch Bharat Mission.



Little Men and Little Women of City Streets
Urban Street Children

Harsh Mander, Deepti Srivastava, Preeti Mathew and Satya Pillai*

Street children challenge the social representation that childhood is always sheltered and protected. In fact, children in street situations are extremely vulnerable and endure severely deprived living conditions, a profound lack of protection and the basic support for nutrition, health and education. While India, the second most populous and one of the fastest growing economies, is home to the world’s largest population of street children, we still do not have any definitive and accurate official figures of the number of children for whom city streets are home. They escape the attention and counting in all official censuses and surveys, including the decadal censuses, official national sample surveys, as well as surveys of out of-school children; as these are designed and conducted around counting people who live in ‘census houses’ and their imagination very imperfectly includes people who are homeless, even less children who are alone on the streets. In fact they survive by keeping out of sight of all state authorities as they do not even have any proof of identification.



Strife in a Metro
Affirming Rights to Admission in the City of Delhi*

Rajanya Bose and NC Saxena

‘When you first come here, there is a lot of hope, abhilasha. You think anything is possible. You have heard all the stories of people who have made it big in the city. Slowly, as time goes by, you start wondering what you are doing. One year, two years, three years, and bharosa, something will happen. But slowly you realize, nothing will happen, and you can live the next five years just like the last three years, and everything will be the same. Wake up, work, eat, drink, sleep, and tomorrow it’s the same thing again…. After enough time in Delhi, you even stop dreaming, you could go crazy if you think about it too much.’



Looking Away
Inequality, Prejudice and Indifference in New India

Harsh Mander

I sometimes wonder how I would describe today’s India if I were a historian writing a hundred years from now.I would write, first, that the paramount marker of the first decade of twenty-first-century India was the extraordinary indifference that people of privilege had for the intense and pervasive levels of human suffering all around them. In an interview he gave in the middle of 2013, philosopher and public intellectual Noam Chomsky observed that India’s ‘misery and oppression are so striking, much worse than in any country I have ever seen. And it is so dramatic’. Tellingly, Chomsky also noted: What is really striking to me…is the indifference of privileged sectors to the misery of others. You walk through Delhi and cannot miss it, but people just don’t seem to see it…they put themselves in a bubble and then they don’t see it.’



Urban Housing and Exclusion

Gautam Bhan, Geetika Anand, Amogh Arakali, Anushree Deb, Swastik Harish

Housing is many things to many people. The National Urban Housing and Habitat Policy (2007) sees housing and shelter as ‘basic human needsnext to only food or clothing’,1 putting makaan in its familiar place beside roti and kapda. The United Nations agrees, speaking of the ‘right to adequate housing? as a human right? ?owever, the ?ualifier— ‘adequate’—begins to push at the boundaries of what is meant when talking about ‘housing’. Adequacy here includes a litany of elements: ‘(a) legal security of tenure; (b) availability of services, materials, facilities and infrastructure; (c) affordability; (d) habitability; (e) accessibility; (f) location; and (g) cultural adequacy’.2 In the move from ‘house’ to ‘housing’, the materiality of the dwelling unit expands to include legal status, infrastructure, aesthetics, as well as the relationship of the house to the city at large.

Food Security of the Homeless in Delhi
A study of the nutritional status and dietary intakes of adult homeless persons in New Delhi

Vandana Prasad, Soibam Haripiya and Smita Jacob

Public Health Resource Network (PHRN) & Centre for Equity Studies (CES)

New Delhi

April 2010

A conservative estimate of one per cent of Delhi’s population – 1.5 lakh adults and children – constitute one of the most vulnerable categories of the urban poor, the homeless. Even as January 2010 recorded some of the lowest temperatures, the death toll of homeless persons in Delhi battling the extreme temperature rose to twenty. What needs to be highlighted is that scientific evidence points toward malnutrition and hunger as the underlying causes which make people susceptible to extreme weather conditions .


Listening to Images (An Exercise in Counter-Intuition)

Tina M. Campt

As the name of the book suggests, I feel that the book does highlight many aspects of which the primary concern beckons of ‘how one chooses to look at an image’ and consequentially ‘going beyond than just seeing images’?