Free Press Journal

900 mn Indians live in two rooms or less


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For 10 years, Degal Srimangar Sao, 26, has been sleeping in the corridor of a central Mumbai commercial complex, where he delivers tea every two hours to busy corporate employees. Vijay, as he prefers to be called in Mumbai, is from Kharkatto, a village of 300 homes and 1,765 people – nearly 1,800 km northeast of Mumbai – in Hazaribagh district in the Gangetic-plains Hindi-heartland state of Jharkhand. His nine-member extended family -seven without Vijay and elder brother Puran, who also lives in a Mumbai office corridor – live in a three-room house.

Like Vijay, about 900 million Indians, or nearly 75 per cent of India’s households – with an average family size of five – live in two rooms or less, according to the latest data released by the government in June 2016. Of the 900 million, 630 million, or more than half of all households, live in rural areas, with 262 million, or 20 per cent, in urban areas. There does not appear to be a correlation between income and the size of homes, with some of India’s poorer states boasting larger homes than richer states and vice versa.

No more than 106 million urban households, or nine per cent of all Indian households, live in homes with more than three rooms. About 185 million Indians in rural areas, or 15 per cent of all Indian households, live in houses with three or more rooms. Data on the average size of rooms is not available with the Census of India.

The people of Kerala – India’s seventh-richest by per capita income – live in India’s largest homes. As many as 79 per cent of rural households and 84 per cent of the urban population in Kerala live in houses with more than three rooms, data from the 2014 baseline survey for Sample Registration System of the Census of India shows.

Kerala is followed by Jammu and Kashmir and Assam – 21st and 27th in terms of per capita income – with 66 per cent and 34 per cent rural, and 60 per cent and 45 per cent of the urban population living in relatively larger houses.

Jharkhand, Telangana and Andhra Pradesh are the only states among the 23 big states for which the data has been released where more than half of all families live in two-room houses, both in rural and urban areas.
In Tamil Nadu, Bihar and West Bengal, 48 per cent, 44 per cent and 43 per cent of the population lives in one room or no room – which could mean they are homeless.

Of India’s states, Maharashtra has the highest proportion of urban population that is homeless or lives in one room: Half. Maharashtra also has the maximum proportion of “urban slum units” (blocks of population living in slums), with 53 per cent of all homes in slums, largely due to the slums that proliferate in the Mumbai metropolitan region, home to about 19 million people.