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HindustanTimes Thu,17 Apr 2014

Sleep a luxury for Delhi’s homeless

Ritam Halder, Hindustan Times  New Delhi, January 02, 2013
First Published: 23:38 IST(2/1/2013) | Last Updated: 01:19 IST(3/1/2013)

As the mercury plummets, room heaters along with thermals, sweaters, jackets, caps, blankets and quilts are doing their best. But not all of Delhi has the luxury of these multiple layers of protection.

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Over a lakh of the Capital's citizens are spending nights out in the open braving the extreme downward end of the merciless mercury and waiting for winter to be over as soon as possible.

Sufiya Begum, a 42-year-old homeless woman, lives in a shabbily-erected plastic tent near the Nizamuddin roundabout along with her husband Arman and four kids. "It gets really difficult at night and the wind worsens the situation. Staying alive is the primary idea, getting some sleep is a luxury," Sufiya, a native of Assam living in Delhi for around 20 years, said. http://www.hindustantimes.com/Images/Popup/2013/1/03_01_pg2a.jpg

Homeless people — some families, some in small groups and other loners — can be seen at various nooks and corners of the city sitting out of their temporary dwellings around small bonfires. Some just leave it to the blankets and try and take on the deadly night.

Mohammad Shaheed Khan, a native of Bihar, felt that the government should take care of people like "us" too. "We are not the vote bank and, therefore, we are no one's priority. It really doesn't matter whether we live or die," Khan, while shivering under two thin blankets, said.

On one corner of Nizamuddin lies a night shelter run by Shakti Shalini, an NGO. According to authorities, every night over 70 women come and stay in the one-hall-like shelter.

"This year the cold has been really severe. We have been giving them over five blankets," Abida, the night caretaker of the shelter, said.

Little Sayra Bano sat waiting for her mother Amina to make her bed. Within minutes as the nest for the night was laid down, the five-year-old fell asleep after shivering for a while. "The cold won't let her sleep. She will wake up crying numerous times," Amina, 32, who sleeps near a Jor Bagh bus stop every night, said.

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