Estimates suggest there are around 10,000 homeless women on Delhi's streets. However, the Delhi government has no clue about the exact number of homeless and destitute women, nor the capacity to shelter them.
NGO Ashray Adhikar Abhiyan had come up with a figure of 10,000 after an actual headcount in the winter of 2008.
Now, the Delhi government has, for the first time, initiated a survey of the homeless in the capital, under its Mission Convergence, to be complete in two months' time.
Among government institutions, there is just one 50-bed capacity women's home.
There is also an old-age home for both men and women (capacity:150), homes for young boys and girls (750 each men and women) and for mentally challenged (750).
There are also some NGOs operating such homes.
But why do government agencies work only on being informed? Asks Raj Mangal Prasad, chairman of the Child Welfare Committee, "Even if the system takes proactive steps, where is the infrastructure?"
Admits Manoj Parida, Principal Secretary, Social Welfare Department, "The government is aware that the capacity is not even five per cent of the requirement. We have asked for additional land to the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) and we also encourage NGOs to come forward for capacity addition."
Delhi's Minister for Women and Child Development Kiran Walia pointed out, "Our two mobile vans cater to mental health patients. But in a city like Delhi, we can't go everywhere. Police have a beat patrolling system… they should be held accountable."
However, Amod Kanth, chairperson, Delhi Commission for Protection of Child Rights, is critical.
"Even with 85,000 police men and 550 PCR vans, Delhi police have miserably failed to carry out the charter of activity to help a person in distress."
Delhi police spokesperson Rajan Bhagat said, "It is totally uncalled for and unnecessary to drag the police in this controversy. People with vested interests are unnecessarily blaming the police."
Madhu Kishwar, Professor at Centre for Study of Developing Society (CSDS) and founder of Manushi, a human rights organisation points out, "Homeless women are 10 times more vulnerable than men. Police does nothing but extortion on the roads. They are only looking for an opportunity."
"Only a conscientious society can take proactive steps. Even religious places should come forward to provide shelter to such persons, more so women."