On the chilly New Year night, when many of city residents partied and danced on musical beats to welcome 2015, 28-year-old Jyoti, a homeless, spent a sleepless night at Yadgar-e-Shahjahani Park. She had not been allowed into the night shelter situated on the park premises because she didn't have an identity card.
Jyoti is not the only homeless who spent the night of December 31, when the maximum temperature touched the lowest in 17 years, braving the inclement weather. Hundreds of people in the state capital have to sleep out in the open because they don't find place in the night shelters for various reasons.
For one, Bhopal has only 14 night shelters when it ought to have 22 going by its population. According to Supreme Court guidelines, there should be one shelter home for a population of each one lakh. The city has a population of 22 lakh, therefore warranting at least 22 shelter homes.
The other major problem is that of identity cards. Expecting all destitute persons to have identity cards is unrealistic, accepts district collector Nishant WarWade, but adds that Bhopal Municipal Corporation (BMC), which runs these shelter houses, perhaps does not allow them inside a shelter home for law and order compulsions.
Once a person is denied stay at shelter homes, his problems complicate manifold. He doesn't have a mattress or a blanket and of course TV, which is fitted in dome of these shelter homes.
Moreover, bonfire, which the municipal corporation earlier used to arrange for at several points in the city for destitute persons, is seldom seen now.
During its visit to night shelters on December 31, HT saw Rajkumar and Somesh Patel wandering on the roads to collect dry litter to light the fire to keep themselves warm.
Rajkumar, 40, a labourer said, "I have been spending night on the roads for the past eight years at Yadgar-e-Shahjehani Park. I have nothing to do with New Year or any other celebration because every day is the same for me but this December 31 night is one of the most difficult nights for me so far."
When HT asked why they don't use shelter homes to spend night, Somesh said, "We don't have identity cards (IDs), so we don't get entry in the Rain Baseras. And most of the shelter homes are being used by travellers not by homeless people due to IDs."
Congress corporator Shahid Ali said, "There is a need to increase number of shelter homes for poor people, and the administration should allow them to sleep in the homes without ID."
Convener of NGO Sadprayas, Abdul Jabbar, said, "Due to insufficient number of shelter homes, people are forced to live on the road. There is a need to increase the space in the existing shelter homes or build more shelter homes for people. At least district administration should make temporary arrangements for the homeless in this bad weather. Government should also make arrangement for bonfire to give relief to homeless people."
Collector Nishant Warwade, who also made a surprise visit to shelter homes on December 31 night, said, "I visited shelter homes to check the facilities. I am satisfied with facilities in some of the homes but there is a need to improve other shelter homes."
When asked about not allowing people due to ID, Warwade said, "We have asked caretakers of shelter homes to allow extremely poor people in the home without ID but may be due to law and order situation, they don't allow such people."