No Respite from the Cold of the Night

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Cold shouldered Left to shiver by the government’s tardiness
Cold shouldered: Left to shiver by the government’s tardiness, Photo: Soumik Mukherjee

THEY ENTERED one by one. The smell of stale sweat and dirty feet filled the makeshift shelter. Picking up unwashed blankets, they packed themselves into the room, each occupying a space of 2×5.5 ft. The four temporary night shelters adjacent to Delhi’s Jama Masjid provide refuge from the elements, but the conditions are abysmal.

Ironically, they are the lucky ones. “They told us, ‘Sleep inside, ye be-ghar ka ghar hai’ (this is a home for the homeless). There are 5,000 homeless people at Jama Masjid and only four shelters, each housing 50 people,” explains Yakoob as he shifts uncomfortably in a futile attempt to keep warm. “The others are forced to sleep on the pavement.”

As the mercury dips, the homeless look for shelters across the city. Despite the Supreme Court’s instructions to set up 182 permanent homeless shelters in the capital by January 2012, Delhi has only 64 permanent ones and 51 temporary ones, catering to roughly 12,000 people, while Delhi’s homeless population is 1.5 lakh.

The cost of setting up fireproof and waterproof shelters with adjoining toilets is Rs 3 lakh each. But the bizarre fact is that after having spent Rs 3 lakh on each temporary shelter, the government plans to remove them after winter. “The homeless suffer just as much in the monsoon and summer months. Temporary shelters are not the solution, Delhi needs more permanent shelters,” says Mansoor Khan of the Be-ghar Foundation.

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Cold Comfort

Despite the SC order for setting up homeless shelters, state governments are not listening

BIHAR 4/48

UTTAR PRADESH 5/139

RAJASTHAN 24/240

DELHI 64/182

GUJARAT 12/112

ANDHRA PRADESH 6/95

 Number Of Shelters On Ground

 Number Of Shelters Required

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