Rain Basera – Help the Homeless

Rain basera

Rain baseraWinter is a curse for the poor and the homeless in northern India. For the homeless people who constitute 0.15 per cent (as per Census 2011) of the total population, winter is not only a curse but a life threatening season. Lack of sufficient night shelters ( Rain Baseras) in the big cities like Delhi and Kolkata makes their life miserable. Apathy of Government agencies towards the homeless, lack of resources and an absence of seriousness on the issue make the situation worse. We urgently need to aggressively promote and streamline night shelter service.

The homeless and night shelters

The homeless, as defined by the Census of India, are those who do not live in a house with a roof. While the Supreme Court, in 2010, directed all city corporations to establish shelters for the urban homeless, a status report submitted by SC-appointed commissioners in January 2012 registered that the stipulations were not met. The State Governments and the UTs were expected to provide a shelter to the homeless with a capacity of housing 100 homeless people for every lakh of population. It is also expected that these night shelters would provide basic amenities like bed rolls, potable drinking water, primary health care facilities and recreational facilities, among other things.

Supreme Court directives

We boast about being a welfare State. Paradoxically, the welfare State often fails to provide the basic necessities to the poor. What is more disappointing is that even after the Supreme Court directives to the State Governments and UTs to provide night shelters to homeless, not even 10 per cent of stipulated shelters were set up in the last three years. Article 21 of the Constitution mandates the Right to Life and in an ideal situation; the government should strive to provide for the homeless without any such directives from the Supreme Court.

Include rain baseras in CSR

It is surprising to note that the new Government has announced so many social and welfare schemes on mission mode, however, it has not even talked about streamlining rain baseras by sending advisory to all State Governments and their agencies to act responsibly and provide adequate numbers of shelters to the homeless.

Under the Swachh Bharat Mission, the Centre has asked corporates to make toilets under their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) activities. A similar call to the industry would certainly bring in resources for rain basera. So far many corporate houses are helping the poor through NGOs, but for the rain baseras they need to be roped in in a much bigger way. Along with private sector, public sector enterprises can also play a critical role in promoting night shelters in major cities. The Government should give some incentives to private and public sector companies to take up this task to set up night shelters. In Delhi, Metro Rail, DTC depots, DDA and its flyovers have large space of their own which can be converted into temporary or permanent rain baseras.


The night shelters must provide all facilities. Drinking water, toilets, electricity, blankets, heaters and medicines should be provided to all. Though the homeless would not mind a crowded place if all facilities are given but on humanitarian ground, it is desirable night shelters should not be crowded and proper attention should be given on hygiene.

Moreover, we also need special rain baseras for family, women, mentally challenged and physically challenged persons. These special shelters should not be for winters only but should be operational for whole year.

The authorities need to ensure that people move into the safety and warmth of the night shelters in severe winter. It is also a fact that some people refuse to move from places they occupy on roads and under flyovers and bridges. Safety of their belonging is yet another area of concern. A rickshaw puller or a small vendor would readily move in to a rain basera if he is assured about safety of his possessions. We need to create awareness and the Government agencies should also make necessary arrangements so that people who want to help the homeless should prefer a night shelter for distributing goods rather than helping them on roadsides and other places. This will act as catalyst and encourage the homeless to move in to the rain baseras.

Take it up on mission mode

In Delhi, the Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) would provide space. The Delhi Urban Shelter Improvement Board (DUSIB) must set up more night shelters. To promote setting up of more and more night shelters, we would require such commitments from such corporations. As DMRC has committed to provide the ground floor of the metro station at Okhla and also providing porta cabins, other corporations, with such space, should come forward to help the homeless. We need to make setting up night shelters a mission.

The menace of drug might be associated with the homeless. It is also argued that most of the homeless people do not want to shift to night shelters as they are involved in drugs-related activities. Drugs related activities cannot undermine the need to promote and streamline night shelters. Other agencies like police and narcotics departments need to be more active and vigilant to curb the menace.

So, let us gear up to help the homeless more aggressively than ever.