Even as the mercury plunges southward, rain baseras (night shelters for the homeless) are being appropriated by daily wagers and, even, students visiting the city to take exams.
An average of 75-80 people take shelter from the biting cold at the facility located on the first floor of the Sarwate Bus Stand building, according to the attendance register.
However, Indore Municipal Corporation (IMC) staffers who man the shelter say many of those who spend the night here "are students or those who work nearby."
The reasons are not too hard to find. Entry is free of cost and people get a mattress, quilt, a pillow and cable television when the cable is spared by vandals. Two large halls are used to separately house men and women who sleep side by side on the floor.
All you need to get in is an id. That said, a night at the shelter is no bed of roses. The bedding is smelly, unclean and frequently acts as a cushy track for the scores of rats that also call the shelter home. Moreover, there is no drinking water.
"We kept a matka (earthen pots) but it was broken. Since the gates are locked at midnight we ask people to fill up bottles before they retire for the night," said Neena Solanki , one of the three caretakers deployed at the site by the IMC.
"There is regular power supply but the large number of rats makes sleep difficult," said Balram Singh Rajput, a waiter who frequently spends the night at the rain basera as he scouts for more permanent living quarters. "Many people who work at restaurants in Palasia, Navlakha spend the night here," he added.
IMC staffers confirm the assertion. "Sometimes a large number of students turn up but since we have only a limited number of mattresses we asked two people to share a bed," said an IMC employee. "Everyone who stays here has to leave at 8 am as the shelter closes then and reopens at 2 pm," added the staffer.
The caretakers also rebut the claims of unclean bedding. "We got 38 new mattresses and 35 quilts just recently. In all we have 59 mattresses and 55 quilts," said Solanki. In other words, at least a dozen or so of the 75-80 people who take refuge at the shcelter share a bed or a quilt.
The caretakers also alleged that an NGO that dishes out low-cost meals from a kitchen on the same floor is trying to take over the rain basera.
IMC official in-charge of the night shelters Dilip Singh Chauhan admits that the facility is crammed by those who come to Indore to appear for some exam. "But usually this happens only on Saturdays. The exams are on Sunday so they spend Saturday night at the shelter and leave for their hometown the next day," he added.
Chauhan also dismissed allegations of the NGO trying to take over the rain basera operations. "They have never expressed an interest nor made any offer in this regard," said Chauhan. Then urban development minister Babulal Gaur inaugurated rain basera at Sarwate and Gangwal Bus Stands in 2012.