The advancing winter may have made people reach for their blankets across the city, but a group of disillusioned and disenfranchised citizens is yet to find a place to live.
The Delhi Urban Shelter Improvement Board (DUSIB), of the Delhi government, is yet to hold a meeting to formulate a working plan for homeless shelters ahead of winter, even as the temperatures are dropping every day.
The Delhi Police have so far found 85 unidentified dead bodies in the North District alone since October 1. The North District has the highest population of homeless in the city and large numbers of unidentified bodies, by admission of police officials and NGOs, are of these homeless people. Currently, there are only 17 functioning tents for the homeless in the Capital. When winters set in last year, the number was 89. Despite the high court’s order that no tent will be closed down, NGOs were forced to do the same due to lack of funds from the state government.
“The sense of urgency that a government should show to take care of its citizen is completely missing. The meeting to decide the fate of the homeless is yet to take place and the tents that are most accessible to the homeless population too are not in place. The government is lacking a long-term plan,” said Indu Prakash Singh, technical director, Indo-Global Social Service Society, an organisation that works with the homeless.
There are close to 70 permanent shelters in the city but NGOs say their location makes them pointless. “Setting up a shelter in areas like Model Town is pointless as this is not where the homeless are. Shelters are desperately needed in Central Delhi and NDMC areas, an area where not even a single permanent shelter exists,” Singh added.
Another area that has been ignored for long is shelters for women. There is currently only one shelter being run for women. This shelter, in Karol Bagh, can house just 30 women along with 20 children. DUSIB officials, meanwhile, stated that any decision regarding shelters will be taken only after a meeting is held on November 8.