Out cold in ill-equipped night shelters: Sorry state of Gurgaon’s homeless
The homeless in Gurgaon are sleeping in pitiable conditions on winter nightsgurgaon Updated: Jan 16, 2017 17:00 IST
A portable night shelter that opened last week remains closed, while the roof and floor at another has seepage leading to people sleeping on wet mattresses. One shelter has virtually no occupants for fear of anti-social elements on the prowl, while construction of an underpass has cut electricity to another and the toilets in some are locked as drainage pipes haven’t been installed.
These, in a nutshell, are the pitiable conditions in which the homeless in Gurgaon are sleeping this winter.
Since last November, seven portable night shelters, each capable of accommodating 12, were installed by the Municipal Corporation of Gurgaon (MCG) to ensure the city’s homeless aren’t left out in the cold.
The cause, though noble on paper, has yet to translate into anything meaningful on the ground. A visit to four of such night shelters — at Iffco Chowk, Rajiv Chowk, railway station and Sector 15 Part II — revealed the appalling conditions in which the city’s homeless have been housed.
A caretaker, 12 sets of beddings, two water dispensers, two LED bulbs and a mobile toilet in the vicinity had been provisioned for each of these night shelters. The portable cabins are 10 feet high and 28 feet wide. Such cabins were to come up at Bhim Nagar, Kanhai village, Sheetla Mata Mandir, Rajiv Chowk, Iffco Chowk and the railway station.
However, the locals were clueless when asked for directions to the portable cabins at Sheetla Mata Mandir, Bhim Nagar and Kanhai village.
The following is an overview of the miserable state of the four shelters that HT visited:
The portable night shelter was to be thrown open to the homeless at 7 pm on Thursday, but opened an hour late due to a power outage. Attendants, hired by the MCG, struggled to restore power as a makeshift electrical circuit attached to a transformer tripped owing to overload.
Tea and food vendors nearby said the homeless weren’t willing to move into the shelter as they feared for their security.
The MCG attendant at the spot, too, owned up to the shoddy upkeep and arrangement at the shelter.
“We don’t have any identity proofs. Hence, (homeless) people don’t take us seriously when we tell them we are there to help them settle into the camp. We also have trouble stopping alcoholics and drug addicts from encroaching into this space. We have briefed the MCG officials on the state of affairs, but they didn’t take any note of it,” the attendant said.
The toilet can’t be used as the drainage pipes are not in place.
As the attendant flips on his flash light, this correspondent caught sight of the attendance chart that suggested a high turnout over the last few days.
A tour of the portable toilets showed that they are in working condition and the number of mattresses, bedsheets and drinking water arrangement seemed adequate.
What dulled the impression was when the attendant let out that shelter has had no electricity over the last four days.
Moreover, the construction of underpasses at Rajiv Chowk by NHAI forced MCG to relocate the night shelter 50 metres away from its original spot.
The power cables attached to the shelter fell short following relocation. The attendant claimed that power will be restored within a week.
“Since we can’t light a bonfire inside the shelter, a few of us had procured a second-hand portable electric heater from an NGO to keep warm. However, with no electricity, the device is useless,” Shyam, a mason and resident of Mahendragarh said.
The attendance sheet shows the facility is in high demand. At an average more than eight people are accommodated on a daily basis. The measures to ensure safety of occupants also seem adequate. A file containing ID cards and documents shows all the occupants are accounted for. The attendant said that with the arrangement adequate and records up to date, outsiders and anti-social elements wouldn’t dare to hassle or harm the occupants.
However, not all is perfect in this shelter. The ceiling is wet with dew and the wooden floor has bore the brunt of a seepage in the pipeline installed below.
Though the mattresses are wet, the hapless occupants have little option but to sleep on them.
“I came to Gurgaon last week hoping to earn daily wage by doing some construction work. The train to Jaipur leaves at 6 am and since I have no savings, night shelter seemed a feasible option. My baggage is wet from the seepage, but there is little I can do than shove newspapers under them,” Mahipal Menaria, a resident of Bhilwara district of Rajasthan, said. The portable toilet here is locked as drainage is not yet ready.
Sector 15 Part-II
The portable cabin was opened last week on the premises of Red Cross Society. However, during the spot visit by HT, the shelter and its toilets were found closed.
Reason? “It is opened only when one needs it,” Red Cross secretary Shyam Sunder said.
“Our teams fan out to the railway station and bus stand to bring homeless people over. The teams leave at about 9pm,” Sunder said.
Nearby shopkeepers said the facility has been closed since its launch and not a single homeless person has been housed here.
Quizzed on the same, Sunder said, “My mobile number is available on social media. Those in need can find it and ask for help.”
MCG joint commissioner, Vivek Kalia said, “A six-member committee comprising the MCG and the Red Cross officials has been formed to take stock of the infrastructure and upkeep of these night shelters. We are aware of the glitches and efforts are underway to improve the condition at the earliest.”