The Delhi government is planning to arm the aam aadmi with a mobile application to help track, report and enable rescue of a homeless in distress. With rescue operations a grey area so far, this winter will be a litmus test for the Shelter Management Agencies entrusted with the task.The application is likely to be made available to the public for free from the first week of December. It is currently being tested by the Delhi Urban Shelter Improvement Board (DU SIB). The user can trigger a rescue operation over the phone by taking a picture and posting it on the app. The DUSIB server will automatically lead to the location of the person and the nearest rescue team will be informed. App users will also have access to a list of night shelters; one can inform the nearest shelter about the homeless person’s whereabouts.After the case has been attended to, the Samaritan will be sent an update on phone and email.DUSIB says it has 200 shelters ready for use, including those housed in permanent buildings as well as porta ca bins and semi-permanent tinshed structures, with an estimated capacity of 14,000. In addition, DUSIB plans to put up tents at 45 locations identified as high concentration areas.This would take the capacity to about 18,000. Last year, DUSIB had come under fire for reporting a conservative estimate of homeless on the streets to NHRC.While its rapid survey reportedly put the number at 17,000, DUSIB had given it out as 12,000, while saying that 5,600 people live in temporary and permanent shelters built by the government.
Various NGOs have put the numbers at between 55,000 (according to the state’s own UNDP-Mission Convergence survey in 2010) and 1 lakh, as per some voluntary surveys. In fact, the Supreme Court commissioner’s report had put the number of homeless at 2.4 lakh.