‘Killer’ heat wave affecting the urban poor, the homeless

‘Killer’ heat wave affecting the urban poor, the homeless


Urban poor worst affected by ‘killer’ #heatwave; @OxfamIndia is working on urban poverty. Know more http://bit.ly/1d391CT

Over 1400 dead due to #heatwave. Most of them are urban poor and without homes. @OxfamIndia works for the urban poor. http://bit.ly/1d391CT

While you are cursing the heat, wiping the sweat from your head, adjusting the temperature in your car and shopping for new sunglasses, over 1400 people in the country have died because they did not have a roof over their head to survive this ‘killer’ heat wave.

The current death toll from the heat wave this summer is already five times higher than last year's Kashmir floods. But even then, heat waves are not yet designated as natural calamities in India.

The Indian government had recognised cold wave/frost as a natural calamity in 2012 after hundreds were killed in three consecutive winters in north India.

Being deemed as a natural calamity, it makes the affected people eligible for assistance from central and state governments. But that is not the case for people affected by the heat wave.

As per the 2011 census, 177 lakh people  -- 0.15% of the total population -- live on pavements, under flyovers and railway platforms. They are directly facing the brunt of this heat wave.

Oxfam India is trying to help

Now this issue is directly connected to Oxfam India’s work in the area of urban poverty. 

Migration of people from villages to cities in search of jobs and a better life. They do not have any home to stay, have no identity cards, thus making them ineligible for any government scheme.

In absolute terms, urban population saw a rise in homeless population from 7.78 lakh people in 2001 to 9.38 lakh people in 2011, but rural areas witnessed a decline from 11.6 lakh people to 8.34 lakh people.

Oxfam India works with six partners in Assam, Delhi, Maharashtra, and Uttar Pradesh (UP), to directly reach 482,500 families. Our work focuses on the issues of people living in slums, people without homes, pavement dwellers, women domestic workers construction workers, street vendors and waste pickers, women home based workers and artisans.

We work towards:

  • Helping them build their skills
  • Increase awareness regarding pro poor laws to  protect their livelihoods
  • Access social security benefits and entitlements  under various laws
  • Articulate their demands for shelter identity proofs to avail basic social benefits 
  • Build their skills to strengthen their livelihood. 

This is done through organising resource centres (as in UP) and helplines, engaging with local municipal administration and helping workers organise themselves.

Oxfam India’s work on urban poverty -- at a glance:
  • In Uttar Pradesh, about 1,300 urban poor obtained various identity proofs including Voter ID cards, ration cards, Unique Identification Cards through active coordination with State Election Commission and Regional Aadhar Office.
  • In Karnataka, 5,000 waste pickers got identity cards, health insurance and safety gear.
  • Through our active engagement with the local administration in Uttar Pradesh, 23 permanent shelters became functional during extreme cold weather. We also organised more than 3,200 workers under a single banner.
  • In Maharashtra, over 700 waste pickers organised themselves to demand an establishment of a Welfare Board for waste pickers.


Written by: Farrukh Rahman Khan, Programme Coordinator, Oxfam India

Photo credit: Abhinav Khare

Student of Amity University Lucknow, during internship with Oxfam India



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