The homeless die every year. They die every summer due to heat stroke and they die every winter due to the cold.
This year, too, the winter has started claiming the lives of the homeless—two men were found dead on the streets of Chandni Chowk on Tuesday morning.
“The two unidentified men, between the ages of 40 and 45, found dead in Chandni Chowk apparently died due to cold,” said SS Yadav, DCP, north Delhi.
Even after a severe rap from the High Court in January this year, the government has not been able to ensure that the homeless do not fall prey to the extreme cold.
The responsibility of readying night shelters for the homeless was transferred to the Delhi government earlier this year.
As per Delhi chief secretary, Rakesh Mehta, most of the 64 night shelters have started functioning. “We have roped in a dozen NGOs to ensure that the maximum number of homeless can benefit from the shelters. We are also providing the homeless bubble sheets to make sure they do not fall prey to the cold,” said Mehta.
But these 64 shelters can accommodate only 10,000 people whereas modest estimates put the number of homeless in the city at 160,000.
With night-time temperatures falling below 10 degrees Celsius and fog enveloping the city for the past two weeks, the homeless—already suffering from chronic diseases and poor general health—are easy targets for the cold.
“Many slums have been demolished this year because of the Commonwealth Games. That has added to the number of homeless. Stretching the existing resources to cover all the needy is not possible. Also, the government is exacerbating the problem by ignoring the housing plans for the economically weak,” said Indu Prakash of the Ashray Adhikar Abhiyan, an NGO that works for the rights of the city’s homeless.
Most of the night shelters are located in central and north Delhi.