The Delhi government has urged the Delhi high court to allow it to shut down 84 temporary night shelters across Delhi, on its directions, citing low occupancy and huge expenditure involved in their maintenance.
Delhi government standing counsel Najmi Waziri told the court that they spent around R1.2 crore per month on them and that the occupancy was less than 20%.
“The statistics are worrying and if indeed, this is the loss to the exchequer, it is disturbing,” said a bench of chief justice Dipak Misra and Justice Sanjiv Khanna, ordering inspection of all the night shelters by lawyers Jyoti Singh and Shobna Takiar to verify the claim made by the government.
Touching upon the financial loss occurred every month, Waziri urged the bench to modify its earlier order, directing the government to run the shelters for the poor.
Waziri accused the NGOs running them of having a vested interest in their continuance since they are paid R30,000 per month from government coffers to maintain these shelters.
Seeking permission to shut down the temporary shelters, the counsel submitted that the government is considering setting up the requisite number of permanent shelters as per the Master Plan.
Lawyer Jayant Bhushan, who is the amicus curiae (senior lawyer assisting the court) in the matter, strongly protested closing down of the shelters, saying that it (occupancy) is normally low during summers, as facilities provided were poor.
“There are no fans, water or toilets. People prefer to remain outside. But it is essential during the rains and winter,” he said. “Once they improve the facilities, the occupancy will automatically go up,” Bhushan told the court.