For Ravi Kumar, a daily wager from Chhapra in Bihar, the permanent night shelter at Bhim Nagar has been his refuge in winters since 2012.
Ravi was one of the 50 people present at the Bhim Nagar night shelter when HT visited for a spot check. The shelter has one functional toilet, but no hot water. One section of the shelter was found to be covered with files and broken furniture of the Municipal Corporation of Gurugram (MCG) and gathering dust.
The poor living conditions at Bhim Nagar are also mirrored in the other two permanent night shelters operated by the MCG – one at Sheetla Mata Mandir and one in Kanhai village.
Every morning the occupants of the night shelter line up outside its one functional toilet as the other has been closed for over a month due to a clogged drain. On an average, it takes 15-20 minutes before one can use the toilet.
Those who want to take a bath have to do so with cold water from an underground pump as the shelter does not have a geyser or any facility to heat water.
“I bathe only once a week, that too on a day that looks like it’s going to get sunshine and a clear sky. Nobody wants to risk falling ill and losing a day’s pay,” said Vinod Kumar, a shelter occupant who hails from Bareilly.
The attendant present there said that when the shelter is closed after winter, MCG officials use it to store their files and broken furniture.
“Usually the stored items are cleared before winter. However, this year a section has been left with piles of MCG files and broken furniture. Hence, the place is gathering dust and is giving rise to mosquito breeding,” the attendant said.
He claimed that the matter has been reported to senior MCG officials, but to no avail.
During the spot visit, only three occupants were found, including a supervisor who was drunk.
The other two people said incidents of violence in the past few weeks have resulted in the shelter’s attendance falling drastically.
“Three weeks ago, two groups had a fight over bedsheets. Most of those fighting were intoxicated. All occupants in the night shelter got involved and many left fearing for their safety,” said Harish Yadav, a local at the village.
While the Bhim Nagar shelter gets food, hot beverages and drinking water from an NGO, Kanhai village does not offer any such facilities. Those staying there have to drink water drawn from an underground pump.
However, all toilets at the facility were found to be clean and in working condition, but again, did not provide hot water.
Sheetla Mata Mandir
This shelter, opened last month, is situated inside the temple complex and has privately hired guards and constables of Haryana police guarding the area.
During HT’s visit, it was found to have two occupants and an attendant. A look at the attendance chart, however, showed that the place has a high attendance with an average of more than 50 people staying there.
“The attendance is usually low on weekdays. During the weekends and the festive season, groups of 30-50 people come from across the country and take shelter here,” said Anuj, the shelter’s supervisor.
This shelter also provides an independent section for women. However, when asked about the attendance of women, Anuj said it had minimal takers as safety at night shelters remains a concern, more so for women.
Food, beverage, toilet and bathing facilities were found to be optimum at the night shelter which gets funding from both the Shri Mata Sheetla Devi Shrine Board and the MCG.
MCG joint commissioner Vivek Kalia, the nodal officer of night shelters in the city, said a committee comprising MCG and Red Cross officials has been taking stock of the infrastructure and upkeep of night shelters and they are in the process of addressing the shortcomings.
“We (MCG) admit that some of the night shelters have shortcomings. The committee has been directed to submit a daily report on the maintenance and facilities being provided at each shelter. The move will ensure that facilities are optimised and monitored,” Kalia said.