At 6pm on a chilly Tuesday evening, Delhi urban development minister Arvinder Singh boarded his beacon-bound white car. He had decided to take stock of the night shelters' preparation to deal with the severity of winter and had zeroed in on two night shelters.
His first stop was at a Yamuna Bazar shelter. He and the officials accompanying him walked through a wet, dimly lit alley near a Hanuman Mandir and reached the first-floor shelter home for men.
The second stop was at another shelter near Nigambodh Ghat. With the Yamuna as its backdrop, this site had two newly-built tent-like structures to add to its previous capacity. "Now this place can give shelter to around 300 homeless people. The NGO which looks after this shelter also provides food at night," Singh said.
The inmates seemed awed to see a minister and smiled, clapped and interacted with him.
Manoj Kumar from Bihar was lying out in the open with a dirty sleeping bag as protection from the chill. "There is no space inside. So this is where we will spend the night," Kumar said.
The minister entered each of the hall-like structures and asked people if they were facing any problems. "Hoardings with information on night shelters will be put up in a few days so that more people can avail this service," the minister said after finishing the whole visit in 30 minutes.
In a related development, Delhi chief secretary DM Spolia, after his surprise inspection of night shelters on Monday night with Delhi Urban Shelter Improvement Board CEO Amarnath, asked the board to ensure availability of blankets and mattresses to the residents. He also wants the number of shelters at ISBT and Yamuna Bank to be increased.