Two more lives were lost to the cold on Sunday, which, at 2.6 degrees Celsius, turned out to be the coldest day of the season so far. Police recovered the bodies of two men from Bapa Nagar and Kirti Nagar in the afternoon.
Despite the government opening up night shelters in the city, many still continue to sleep in the open. The winter induces hypothermia- a condition wherein metabolism is impeded- causing death.
According to police figures, 237 unidentified dead bodies have been found on the streets of Delhi since the beginning of December so far. As per estimates from the police as well as NGOs, close to 70% of these people are the homeless. By this estimate, 166 homeless have already lost their life.
“As per police figures, 48 unidentified dead bodies were found in the city between December 22 and December 26 alone. It means that around 33 homeless people died during this period,” said Sunil Kumar Aledia, member, Centre for Holistic Development.
Despite the cold, however, December and January aren’t the worst months for the homeless. According to a similar analysis of unidentified dead bodies recovered during the years, June scores the highest.
This year around 485 unidentified dead bodies were recovered in June alone. The number of homeless among them is estimated to be 340.
A large number of homeless are either addicted to alcohol or to drugs. This compromises their immune system and they fall sick more often, especially in the extreme weather conditions.
“More people die in the harsh summer months than in the winters and there are two reasons for it. Once is that no facilities are provided to the homeless during summers. There is no water and dehydration is common. Drinking contaminated water also results in a number of diseases. The second reason is that the homeless population is cooped up in shelters with others in winters. It is very easy for them to catch dangerous communicable diseases here such as Tuberculosis. They fight the disease for a few months but in the harsh summer they succumb,” Aledia added.
No health camps are conducted for the homeless and many don’t get access to tuberculosis medicine since they don’t have proper identification cards.