Providing free shelter, food will increase population of homeless: Bombay HC
Providing free shelter and meals to the homeless, beggars and pavement dwellers will only increase such persons if they are not asked to work in return for the country, the Bombay high court (HC) observed on Saturday and disposed of a public interest litigation (PIL) after the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) informed the HC that it had undertaken various measures to provide food packets, potable water and sanitary pads to homeless girls with the help of various NGOs.
The observation came while the court was hearing a PIL filed by Brijesh Arya, founder president of NGO Pehchan which works for the homeless, through advocate Kranti LC, seeking directions to the state and civic authorities to complete construction of shelter homes for the homeless and provide cooked meal thrice a day, clean public toilets and bathrooms for use by homeless and urban poor for free, potable water, soaps and sanitary napkins for women during the pandemic.
While making oral observations, the bench of chief justice Dipankar Datta and justice Girish Kulkarni said, “The homeless should also work for the country if they are provided with shelter. There is employment or livelihood provided for them under government schemes. Everything cannot be provided by the government; otherwise it will increase their numbers. You are just encouraging increase of such a population.”
On Saturday, the counsel for BMC submitted a document by the assistant commissioner (planning) which disclosed the number of food packets being distributed by the civic authority, Ness Wadia Foundation, Ramkrishna Mission and others to the homeless in the city and distribution of napkins to 1,300 homeless women. The civic authority also submitted that a project aimed at resolving the concerns of homeless persons and reliefs sought by the petitioner would be provided through it.
The court, while appreciating the initiatives by the authorities, also asked the state and civic authority to decide on making use of public toilets free as some homeless and beggars cannot afford to pay the amount.
Additional government pleader for the state informed the bench that various steps had been taken during the pandemic to provide free meals to the homeless through Shiv Bhojanalay initiative where free food was being distributed.
After hearing the submissions, the bench pulled up the petitioner for not providing sufficient data with regards to the homeless in the city and state. The court then expressed satisfaction at the initiatives taken by the state and BMC and said, “We are of the considered opinion that the state and the corporation are taking steps in the right directions for food, water, napkins etc for homeless within the limits of their capacity and no direction is required at this stage from this court for augmenting the distribution.”