Gurgaon’s homeless all praise for MCG’s night shelters
Gurgaon’s deputy mayor Sunita Yadav announced a free food service for the poor on Jan 11gurgaon Updated: Jan 22, 2018 22:44 IST
On a chilly January night, Amit Chauhan, a mason in Gurgaon, stepped into a night shelter at Bhim Nagar, washed his hands with the water from a community tap and lined up in a queue of men waiting to partake of a meal comprising lentils, cottage cheese (paneer), rice, and chapatti. “The platter was generous compared to the one last winter,” he said.
“Until last year, I had to finish my work and then look for food stalls near the station. Then again, only a few offered complete meals for ₹15 or less. It was all that I could afford,” said Amit, who hails from Sawastipur in Bihar and earns a daily wage that varies between ₹50 and ₹60.
“There were days when I had to sleep on an empty stomach, especially during festivals. However, the food on offer at the night shelters this year has reduced my worries considerably. I have an assured meal after a hard day’s work and can I sleep here. It helps me recover from stress and work better,” Amit said.
Amit is among the many homeless people in the city who have benefitted from the free meals provided by the Municipal Corporation of Gurugram (MCG) at night shelters this year.
During a visit to night shelters at Bhim Nagar and the railway station, this reporter received positive feedback from occupants about the free breakfast and dinner. They said that the facilities at these shelters have also improved significantly since last year.
Last season, the Hindustan Times highlighted the appalling provisions at night shelters which made the administration take corrective measures before the winter set in.
Barring the absence of geysers at the Bhim Nagar night shelter, issues such as non-functional toilets, seepage, wet mattresses, unhygienic conditions, and inadequate drinking water facilities were found to be rectified at the night shelters this time around.
Harinder Kumar, who is among the many people who were recently moved from the railway station platforms to the nearby night shelter, said, “Earlier, I would examine all the food stalls around the railway station and pick out the one which served the cheapest meal. Often, my luck would run out as the food at the stalls will run out or the stall owner would not show.”
Kumar, who hails from Rajasthan and works for a daily wage, is deeply appreciative of the free meal initiative. “The new initiative of free food at the night shelter not only gives me an assured meal, but also helps me save money; I can now eat two meals instead of one,” he said.
The free food service was announced by deputy mayor Sunita Yadav on January 11. Two social welfare organizations transport the food from several home kitchens to the night shelters spread across the city, and the MCG serves it.
“We received a generous offer from several social welfare organisations; they provide food to the MCG and we then serve the same to those seeking refuge at the night shelters. It is our duty to ensure that facilities are optimum,” the MCG commissioner V Umashankar said.
“Since the (free food) initiative was proposed, residents and social welfare organizations came forward wanting to be a part of this setup. According to our estimates, we ask them to prepare a plate of food, which costs around Rs40 per person, for 250 people. Cumulatively, the cost comes to Rs10,000,” Mahender Singh, project officer of MCG said.
Singh said the MCG plans five days in advance to ensure they do not run out of ration.
Dinner at the night shelters is provided starting 7.30pm; caretakers even reserve food for latecomers. For breakfast, all shelters offer a standard snack of tea, biscuits and bread.
BOX: A refuge for the homeless
No. of homeless: 1,500+*
No. of permanent night shelters: 3 at Bhim Nagar, Kanhai Village, and Sheetla Mata temple
Housing capacity: 75 each; 225 in all
No. of portable night shelters: 7 at Rajiv Chowk, Iffco Chowk, Basai Chowk, Gurgaon railway station, Vatika Chowk, Sector 14 part-II and Mahavir Chowk
Housing capacity: 12 in each; 84 in all
Size of portable night shelter: 10 feet high and 28 feet wide
* According to an estimated by the Red Cross Society