Several ‘nobodies’ breathe their last on the Capital’s streets every day. Unaccounted for and known by informal first names when alive, it is only after death (due to old age, extreme weather, ailments) that they get ‘official’ identity.
“Barring a very small number of criminal cases, such
as those of fatal accidents
and murder, in which the family of the victim comes
forward to claim him or her, a majority of dead bodies recovered from Delhi streets go unclaimed,” said a senior Delhi Police officer on condition of anonymity.
If no one steps forward to claim such a body within 72 hours of being discovered, despite the police’s efforts — it is tagged an Unidentified Dead Body (UIDB).
It is then photographed, fingerprinted and cremated at an electronic crematorium.
Yesterday, in northeast Delhi, however, three police stations squabbled for 10 hours before deciding who would follow procedure, after recovering a 60-year-old man’s dead body at the Jhilmil Colony Railway Tracks.
More than 2,777 UIDBs were found on Delhi streets till October 22; activists say the number is all set to spiral once the winter sets in.
“The problem is lack of adequate facilities, where a completely separate category of destitute persons such as senior citizens, drug addicts, pregnant women and similar persons can seek shelter,” said Paramjeet Kaur, director, Ashray Adhikar Abhiyan, an NGO that works for the rights of the city’s homeless.
While most UIDBs — more than 592, were recovered from various locations in north Delhi, the Railway Police recovered 578 bodies till October 22.
According to Kaur, two of the most common reasons leading to death is either extreme weather or a relapse of symptoms of previous illnesses due to the extreme weather.
Said Kaur: “It would be wrong to say that most pavement dwellers die only during winter. It is the extreme weather that the capital experiences in general that leads to their deaths — both due to heat strokes in the summer and due to hypothermia in winters.”
She added, “With nowhere else to go, these pavement dwellers have no option but to stay on the streets and bear the brunt of nature head-on. Most of them don’t survive it.”
Delhi’s homeless population is estimated to be upwards of one lakh people — the reason that the government cites for the lack of adequate facilities.
“We already have 24 fully functional homes for the destitute and very soon, 24 more will be added to that number, under a pilot project to be launched by the newly established Urban Shelter Improvement Board. Halfway houses for addicts, women and the elderly are also to come up soon,” said Manoj Parida, principal secretary, Social Welfare.