While most of Delhi wrapped itself up in layers of warm clothing on Sunday, several homeless people on the streets of the city huddled together with just one blanket to keep them warm on the coldest day of the season so far.
Despite the 80-odd temporary shelters that have come up around the city after the orders of the Supreme Court, there are still a number of homeless at the mercy of the elements, in places such as Baba Kharak Singh Marg, Bhishma Pitamah Marg and the Oberoi flyover.
“The shelter here is full and the people living inside don’t let us enter,” said 10-year-old Sonia, who begs outside Hanuman Mandir. While the Delhi government has put up various shelters across the city this year, they are still not enough.
“The shelter at Hanuman Mandir is already full. We need to put up at least two more shelters to accommodate the homeless in this area,” said Indu Prakash Singh, technical advisor, Indo Global Social Service Society (IGSSS), an NGO.
According to the Master Plan 2021, for one lakh people in the city, there should be one permanent shelter for the homeless. However, currently, there are only 64 night shelters for a population of 1.6 crore. “There needs to be a proper plan for the homeless. Night shelters for the winter months are not a realistic solution. There should be 24-hour permanent shelters for the homeless so that they are more open to the idea of living there,” Singh added.
“The issue is very complex. People have to be mobilised so that they are ready to move into the shelters,” says Paramjeet Kaur, director, Ashray Adhikar Abhiyan, an NGO that has been working with the homeless for the past 10 years.
However, the Delhi Urban Shelter Improvement Board (DUSIB) officials maintain that they have been following the Supreme Court orders. “We have given NGOs permission to set up night shelters. Even we have set up about 80 shelters,” said an official.