The bookshops on College Street are perhaps
the last remnants of the quaint old-world charm that Kolkata was known for,
reminding the discerning world-traveller of the old bookshops of Paris.
However, a severe housing problem coupled with acute poverty has left many
spending fatigue-laden nights on the streets of Kolkata.
The homeless people sleeping on the streets are primarily migrant workers from the neighboring states of Bihar and Uttar Pradesh. Many of them sleep in the open. The day-time din gives way to an eerie stillness at the end of day, and the colourful bookshops lining the ancient streets turn into transient refuges for the night, providing temporary solace under the canopied darkness. Most of the sleepers have left their families to come and find work in Kolkata. Sleeping in the open saves them the cost of renting a place. It is difficult for most to afford accommodation with their low wages, even in a city where rents are relatively cheap.
Many of them wake up early in the morning to go to find work as labourers in the city. Some have their own handcarts to ferry goods from one place to another. The 2011 census estimated 70,000 homeless living in Kolkata, up from 55,000 in 2001.