With winter round the corner, the Delhi high court has sought details from the state government about the facilities for the homeless. “Are there adequate night shelters in place with all facilities, such as power, water and sanitation?” the bench comprising chief justice D Murugesan and justice R S Endlaw asked lawyers representing the Delhi government at a recent hearing.
This was after an NGO complained before the court that there were not enough facilities for the homeless. The Delhi government standing counsel Najmi Waziri said the situation was much better for the poor and homeless this year. “Now, porta cabins are provided instead of tents.”
“The government is conscious of its duty and measures will be taken to ensure that the homeless do not suffer during the winter,” Waziri told the panel. He said 144 temporary shelters are already in place. Last winter, the court had asked the Delhi government to set up one night shelter for every 1 lakh population across the Capital as provided in the Master Plan for Delhi 2021. The court made it clear that all facilities must be provided in these night shelters.
Last year, the government had drawn flak from the court for closing down many temporary night shelters on the grounds that occupancy rate was very low. The court was hearing petitions against civic bodies that nothing was being done to protect the homeless from the cold.
A three-member committee constituted by the court earlier last year to find out reasons for low occupancy at the permanent night shelters had blamed the non-government organisations running them, saying that they were not doing their job sincerely. The committee had also said the homeless were not aware of the permanent shelters.
The Delhi Urban Shelter Improvement Board needed to give wide publicity about the facilities available at these shelters so that the needy could start utilising them, the bench had suggested.