Development does not mean homeless people will not afford homes

08 April 2021


It is no surprise that under the new budget, whatever be difficulties, the public servants will get higher salaries, they being more important to the government than the people under the present bureaucratic system. The government does without the people's vote but they must keep the public servants happy to be anti-people.
Millions of people of Bangladesh have remained homeless even after 50 years of independence even though the state has the obligation to secure basic necessities including shelter for its citizens. The lack of political will of the government in taking an appropriate and comprehensive plan to resolve the problem of homelessness and landlessness; the widening income disparity between the poor and the rich, culture of impunity enjoyed by the corrupt people and the absence of democratic and fair practices in the country are the major reasons leading to the situation.
Various governments took temporary projects to provide shelter to the homeless people and the benefits of the projects did not last long due to the lack of appropriate measures. Besides, river bank erosion, natural and manmade disasters and adverse effects of climate change are also blamed for homelessness. The present government is implementing the Ashrayan project to provide shelters to homeless people. The Prime Minister in last June said that all homeless people will get homes in the Mujib Year that began on March 17, 2020 and none will remain poor and homeless in the country. The Eighth Five Year Plan shows that housing deficit in urban areas was about 0.91 million units in 1991 which increased to about 4.6 million units in 2010. The National Housing Policy 2017 indicated that by 2021 the deficit would be around 8.5 million housing units. This dismal scenario reflects an extreme homelessness in urban areas. Under three phases of Ashrayan Project between 1997 and 2022, the government has so far rehabilitated 357,590 homeless families by constructing new houses and barracks with its own funding.
We see millions of people are still homeless as successive governments did not take comprehensive measures to solve the problem. Only building of some houses under Ashrayan Project would not be enough. The government would have to take a comprehensive plan for eradicating poverty of the homeless people sustainably by arranging jobs and their children's education near their shelters so that they can build their own houses.
Over the years the official development plans were centred on the growth of gross domestic product and the target was neither to reduce the rich-poor income gap nor to address the root cause of homelessness.

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