Can Delhi take care of the homeless better?

Estimates put the number of homeless in Delhi at 2.5 lakhs and shelters at 2000

Photo by Sanjeev Verma/Hindustan Times via Getty Images
Photo by Sanjeev Verma/Hindustan Times via Getty Images

Ashutosh Sharma

We don’t live in the ‘rainbasera’ (night shelters for the homeless) because I don’t find them safe,” says Pooja (26) who along with her family—including her mother, a brother and sister—lives on a pavement near Hanuman Mandir at Connaught Place in New Delhi.

She rues that the rainbaseras lack basic facilities like lockers and there is always a possibility of belongings getting stolen. “Pickpockets and thugs take shelter in ‘rainbaseras’,” complains Pooja—who lost her father and two brothers in separate road accidents. “We get our meals from temples and Gurudwara Bangla Sahib.”

Sharmila (42) a childless widow who has allegedly been disowned by her maternal family and in-laws, nods in agreement, “without the meals provided by Gurudwara Bangla Sahib, thousands of homeless people will starve to death in this city.”

Showing a receipt, she claims to have applied for a house promised under Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (Urban). “It has been over one year now, there is no response from the government,” she laments, listing her daily problems including police harassment on a regular basis.

Like both of them, scores of others had converged in front of the Delhi Urban Shelter Improvement Board (DUSIB) office to participate in a demonstration that marked the World Homeless Day on October 10.

The total number of homeless in Delhi in 2008 was about 88,000 which has now grown to 2.5 lakh this year, claims convenor of Shahri Adhikar Manch: Begharon Ke Saath, Ashok Pandey.

He argues that the 2,000 ‘rainbaseras’ set up by the government are proving inadequate in view of the influx of the poor from rural areas. “The rainbaseras, according to norms, are required to have an occupancy of 100 people. But currently, each shelter accommodates only 30-40 persons,” he said, elaborating on inadequate facilities at the temporary shelters and poor living conditions.

This Gandhi Jayanti his organisation—a collective of over 25 organisations—held a cycle campaign, covering 500 kms to raise awareness about rights of the homeless.

Stressing that the government must consider the situation of homeless women, men and children seriously, Pandey asserts that “it is gross violation of Article 21 of the Constitution of India which states that right to shelter is a necessary component of Right to Life.”

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Published: 15 Oct 2017, 1:51 PM