Despite the Delhi Government’s all-out efforts to address the woes of the homeless in Old Delhi by equipping shelters with light Emitting Diodes (lED) screens for entertainment, Reverse Osmosis (RO) for drinking water and sleeping mats, homeless people living in Jama Masjid’s Urdu Park and other shelters in Old Delhi claim that they continue to face hardship and find hard to take even sound sleep at night.
Of the list, a few that make their life difficult include marauding rodents in the camps, lack of basic hygiene, space crunch, and mafia raj. “These night shelters are being managed by NGOs, but mafia raj inside these shelters prohibits the inmates to spend peaceful nights. One has to cough up Rs 10 to the leader to get space,” said Ashok, who is forced to spend night in the nearby market’s corridor.
To get first-hand experience of life in shelters, The Pioneer visited these PORTA cabins and shelters after reports of a homeless dying near Kashmiri Gate shelter on Tuesday surfaced, taking the toll to 196, as per a report of Centre for Holistic Development.
The daily found that most of the shelters were overcrowded with space area per person being 11 square feet. Notably, according to the National Urban livelihood Mission (NUlM) guidelines for night shelters, the space area per person is 50 square feet.
The AAP Government has arranged temporarily night shelters near Fountain Park, Chandni Chowk and Fatehpuri. But with the ever increasing numbers of those seeking place inside these shelters, the space has shrunk with woes of the poor rushing in. The harsh climate condition is also to be blamed, forcing many to spend nights in biting cold in the long market corridors behind Gurdawara Sis Ganj.
“Why the injustice with homeless people, why night shelters are situated near garbage dumping sitesIJ These night shelters stink like veritable hell.
It is better to die on roads rather than to die in night shelter suffering from diseases,” said Raman Kumar, who is educated but spends his life on roads to save money.
It is important to mention here that Delhi Government has RCC buildings, 114 PORTA cabins, 56 tents and one subway to provide accommodation to homeless people with capacity of 9,659, 7,075, 2,900 and 350 persons respectively.
As per the study and census conducted by various NGOs and institutions, including Supreme Court Commissioner’s office (SCCO), Delhi Urban Shelter Improvement Board (DUSIB) claimed the numbers of these people were 16,760.
According to the latest census of CHD, the population of homeless people in Delhi is near 50,000, however, every year around 3,000 homeless people die due to harsh climate conditions. “The conditions of these people in night shelters are pathetic. Existing shelters are not sufficient corresponding to their numbers and that has resulted in the recent death of 195 men,” said Sunil Kumar Aledia, Executive Director, CHD.