iconimg Monday, August 31, 2015

Atul Mathur
New Delhi, January 26, 2011
Minister for social Welfare, Delhi government, Mangat Ram Singhal, in an interview to Atul Mathur talks about how the homeless don’t want to live in shelters and the government’s plans for them.  Why does the government treat the homeless like a floating population whereas this is not the case?

The problem is these homeless people are habitual. They don’t want to stay in our shelters. They prefer to stay under the flyovers or wherever they get space. With the help of an NGO we bring them to our shelters, provide them basic amenities like hygienic environment and medical help but they return to their old haunts.

They often get clothes, blankets and other things from the rich, which they sell off the next day. We have several shelters for beggars, leprosy patients, women and children which are poorly occupied. They don’t want to stay there.

Does the government have a comprehensive plan for the homeless?

The homeless get food under the Jan Aahar Yojna for just R15 a day. In winters they get free shelter and from February they have to pay just R6 per night to stay at the shelters. We want them to work during the day and spend the night at the shelters. We have increased the shelters from 48 to 148 this year.

Is the government planning to create more employment opportunities for the homeless?

We have schemes where we train the unemployed and homeless. A large number of homeless youths have got vocational training and now earn decent money. There are some NGOs too, which have been recognised by the government, that provide skill training to children and youth.

Police round up homeless on regular basis. Does your department keep in touch with the police and the NGOs?

I don’t think police or the government agencies harass the homeless. There are many homeless people who are drug addicts or are into petty crimes. They are often picked by the NGOs or the police and are taken to IBHAS for treatment. But they manage to escape.

They (homeless drug addicts) are the nation’s spoilt children. The government and the NGOs have been making lot of efforts to rehabilitate them but our efforts have proved futile.