A Cruel Winter for Delhi’s Homeless

How many of us know that Delhi’s harsh winter threatens the lives of 1,50,000 men, women and children, who have no option but to sleep outside on Delhi’s streets? And out of these 1,50,000 homeless people, women and children account to 50,000. The Delhi Government has set up 150 night shelters in Delhi, managed by various NGO’s, which house only 75000 people. The rest of Delhi’s homeless has no option but to sleep on Delhi’s cold streets all through the winter.

What is further disturbing given Delhi’s notorious reputation of being India’s “Rape Capital”, there is only 1 permanent and 3 temporary shelters catering to about 200 women. The unfortunate thing about the women’s shelters is that they cannot keep their sons with them once they grow up, because they are women’s only shelters.

An average temporary shelter can accommodate about 50-60 people and permanent ones can shelter around 100, as a result of which not all are lucky to get into these shelters and have to sleep on pavements and streets. Many homeless can also be seen sleeping by the banks of the Yamuna wrapped up in thin blankets. Many migrants from Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal and Bihar who work as rickshaw pullers line up outside night shelters near Kashmiri Gate, where they pay Rs. 6 for 12 hours of sleep.

The irony is that in an effort to be a world class city, Delhi doesn’t want its homeless sleeping on the road and police harass them relentlessly. The question is that if the government does not want homeless people on the road why doesn’t it make more shelters for homeless people. When NGO’s working with homeless people point out areas where there are homeless people, the police have them forcefully evicted from there.

It is sad that all homeless people are called beggars; most of them are hard working labourers from other states of the country, who have come to Delhi in search of work and who unfortunately have no roof over their heads.

Many people die of the cold wave in Delhi year after year due to expose to the harsh elements and it is high time the government built more shelters to accommodate Delhi’s homeless. And it’s not like the government does not have money, the money needs to be invested in the right places.