Rescue teams and control room to take care of homeless
The measures are a part of Delhi government’s winter action plan, which came into effect on November 15, will continue to be in place till March 15 next year.
The Delhi Urban Shelter Improvement Board (DUSIB), the agency tasked with improving the quality of the life for the residents of slum and JJ clusters in the Capital, has formed 15 rescue teams and has established a 24x7 control room as part of its winter action plan for the homeless during the peak winter season, officials aware of the matter said on Tuesday.
The winter action plan, which came into effect on November 15, will continue to be in place till March 15 next year.
DUSIB already runs 197 permanent shelter homes, which have a collective capacity of 17,000 people, and officials said the board is in the process of setting up 250 temporary shelter homes, which will be able to cater to around 5,000 more people.
They said these shelters are equipped with durries, mattresses, bedsheets, pillows and blankets, and have a locker facility to safekeep belongings, along with electricity, drinking water, toilets, a bathing facility, a television, and hot water.
The officials said that a caretaker is available on a 24x7 basis in all shelter homes, which are scattered across commercial centres and transport hubs such as Chandni Chowk, Kashmere Gate, and Nehru Place.
A Delhi government official said a relatively warm winter so far has meant that the occupancy of the existing shelter homes has not crossed 6,000 over the past five days.
“The number of people seeking shelters during the winter season increases due to the severe cold that the Capital experiences, and these shelters are critical in saving lives. Around 200 temporary shelter homes have already been set up and 50 more are being added in different places with concentration of homeless people across the city to cater to the people in need. Additional tents shall further be installed, if required in this winter, based on the requirement of shelters,” the official said.
“We are going to launch awareness campaigns to create awareness about the location of the DUSIB shelter homes, facilities available, functioning of the rescue teams, etc. so that maximum homeless people can available shelter facilities, and the general people also help the DUSIB by sharing information about the homeless people they come across in the streets,” the official added.
A second official said the DUSIB rescue teams patrol areas with a large concentration of homeless people, such as Jama Masjid and Kalkaji, and have rescued around 500 homeless people over the last 20 days. “Each rescue team is equipped with one vehicle, a driver, and two attendants, and they reach the sites after receiving the information from the DUSIB control room or from other sources to rescue the homeless and take them to nearby shelter homes or hospitals, as per requirement,” the official said.
The control room has a toll free number (14461) and can also be reached through email at firstname.lastname@example.org, the second official said.
However, DUSIB makes similar arrangements every year, and despite its claims of success, it is a common sight to see many homeless people sleeping in the open during the peak of winter.
During spot check at a night shelter in Yamuna Bazaar on Tuesday evening, HT found that the caretaker was missing. A middle-aged man at the shelter, who declined to share his name, said, “We do not get blankets, and have to use our own blankets, which some of us have received from donors.”
Dr Indu Prakash Singh, a member of the Supreme Court-appointed state level shelter monitoring committee (SLSMC) for homeless shelters in Delhi, said, “By now, of the 250 temporary tents to be pitched in 119 locations, only 48 have been pitched. In a meeting held on November 22, DUSIB had promised to pitch all of it by December 1. When will DUSIB understand the plight of homeless residents of Delhi, who have to bear untold miseries on polluted wintry and rainy days? The officers should be more sensitive to the needs of the homeless people.”
Singh also alleged that DUSIB closed five shelters in Yamuna Bazaar after the area was inundated during the floods in July.
DUSIB officials did not comment on the allegations.
Lieutenant governor VK Saxena has also criticised DUSIB in the past — in December 2022, he had inspected some night shelters run by the board and had flagged several shortcomings, attributing these to the body’s “inefficient management”.