Radhey Shyam, a daily wager, sits outside a locked night shelter, trying to find some space to sleep.Though it’s just 7pm, many others like him have already started looking for corners and kerbstone blocks broad enough for their body to rest, and trees where they can keep their few belongings -mostly clothes and some food. This is the scene at Yamuna Pushta near Nigambodh Ghat where the sun sets on another hard day for hundreds of migrant labourers, beggars and odd-job workers.There are night shelters here, but not enough to provide for the 2,000-strong population that lives on either sides of the stretch between the Ring Road Bypass and Chandgi Ram Akhara. As the winter announces itself, there’s hope among the homeless that this December will not be as hard on them as in the past.Six temporary winter shelters were removed from the site after March 31 and three semi-permanent porta cabins with a capacity of about 70 shut a few months ago after Delhi Metro started work and declared these `dangerous’ to live. Now, the Delhi Urban Shelter Improvement Board claims, all these three shelters will be made functional soon and two more built near Qudesia Ghat.NGO Prayas is the Shelter Management Agency here and a visit to two of their functional shelters on Pushta shows that already 35 to 45 people are sleeping daily there. The estimated capacity of these two shelters is 60 and, in peak days, they hope to accommodate as many as 80.
The new shelters at Dan di Park complex, which are functional with space for about 500, and the new ones at Qudesia Ghat are expected to take care of much of the load on this stretch. A few tents will also be erected to take in more people. A visit to the Dandi Park shelter shows that the weather change is already bringing in more and more homeless.
Within a one-km stretch on the Ring Road between Yamuna Bazaar, Pracheen Hanuman Mandir, Kashmere Gate ISBT and Yamuna Pushta area near Nigambodh Ghat, right up to the ro ad merging with the entry to the Ring Road bypass, there exists a significant mass of homeless population. Estimates show that there are between 2,500 and 5,000 homeless people on this short stretch.
Since a citywide comprehensive survey has not yet been taken up by the state, the number of homeless continues to be a matter of debate.
There is also no foolproof data on homeless deaths; most times, the homeless deaths get clubbed with police data on unidentified bodies.During winters, bodies have often been found under flyovers and at roadsides. Sarai Kale Khan, Chandni Chowk, Delhi Gate, Nizamuddin, Kalkaji and Nehru Place are some other points where there is a high concentration of homeless.