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Voluntary groups help Agra's homeless in cold

While the Agra Municipal Corporation has cited a resource crunch for not providing shelter to those without a home, voluntary groups have risen to the occasion.

india Updated: Dec 18, 2007 11:55 IST

In the piercing cold, the homeless in the city of Taj have been finding refuge at numerous night shelters put up by voluntary groups even as the civic authorities drag their feet.

While the Agra Municipal Corporation has cited a resource crunch for not providing shelter to those without a home, voluntary groups have risen to the occasion.

As the mercury drops - it has already touched 2.6 degrees Celsius - and fog envelopes the city in the evenings, poor and homeless people rush to the nearest night shelter put up by Sri Nathji Nishulk Jal Sewa.

Following the lead taken by Sri Nathji Nishulk Jal Sewa, the Lions and Rotary clubs and half a dozen other voluntary bodies like Madhvi Seva Samiti, Kalyankari Mahila Samiti, Nav Surabhi and Ganesh Sewa Kendra and even the Samajwadi Party have put up or are supporting night shelters in various parts of the city.

Raen baseras, as the shelters are known, have also come up at the SN Medical College, the Mental Hospital and outside most railway stations.

Eminent homoeopath RS Pareek, who opened a night shelter two days ago, told IANS: "Serving the poor and the shelterless is a service to god."

"It is our duty to see that the deprived segments of society are taken care of by those who have the resources," he added.

The high priest of the Radhasoami faith in Agra, Agam Prasad Mathur, said those with the means should take an active part in providing succour to the poor.

The Sri Nathji night shelters are equipped for a comfortable night's stay free of cost, according to Bankey Lal Maheshwari who has been running the network for 25 years.

To keep people warm, a bonfire is lit in the evenings and a mix of jaggery and gram is thrown in. On an average night, 60-80 people squeeze into the cosy shelters, Maheshwari said.

"Now we have proper night shelters for three months where beds, clean sheets and quilts are available," said Maheshwari.

"Earlier, we used to distribute blankets to the needy but we found many beneficiaries were selling them in the market."

The good Samaritans have made sure that the homeless in the Taj Mahal city can beat the biting cold every winter night.