Five of the dead were daily wagers, others yet to be identified; CM Khattar seeks report on deaths
From page 01 GURUGRAM: At least 10 people, including one woman, died in the city due to the intense cold wave in the past one week, the police said.
YOGENDRA KUMAR/HT PHOTO
Until about January 1, Gurugram saw extreme, below-normal temperatures. The city reeled under a cold wave in the last week of December as the mercury stayed four or five degrees below normal. The temperature was 0.4 degrees Celsius on December 30.
According to the police, nine of the 10 deceased were homeless. Four of them were daily wagers in Kherki Daula, Pataudi, Sector 7 and the city, and lived on the streets with their family members. The five other deceased have not been identified yet; the police said they used to beg for a living. They were found dead in Sector 65, Rajendra Park, Sector 53, Shivaji Nagar, and near the railway station. Another man, who also worked as a daily wager and lived in a rented accommodation in Krishna Colony, died on the night he was sleeping outside, the police said.
Autopsies of the ten persons were conducted and the reports revealed that they had succumbed to the cold weather. Deepak Mathur, forensic doctor at the Civil Hospital, who conducted the autopsies, said, “Five of the persons died of multiple organ failure due to prolonged exposure to dry, cold conditions. Two died from a heart attack, and three died due to respiratory failure, also a result of extreme cold.”
The police have initiated inquest proceedings under Section 174 of the Code of Criminal Procedure in all the cases. Last year there were two such deaths reported in the same period.
Until about January 1, Gurugram saw extreme, below normal temperatures. On December 20, the minimum temperature had fallen to 1.8 degrees Celsius, when in the past years, the mercury touched 2 degrees Celsius only in the first week of January. The city had reeled under a cold wave in the last week of December as the mercury stayed four or five degrees below normal. The temperature was recorded at 0.4 degrees Celsius on December 30. The first week of January was relatively warmer as the minimum temperature stayed around 7 degrees Celsius. On Monday, the minimum temperature in the city was 6.6 degrees Celsius.
While on one hand, the cold refuses to relent, on the other, the apathy of civic agencies makes the situation worse.
Haryana chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar said he was shocked to know of the number of deaths and has asked officials to submit a report regarding the reasons for the deaths. He said government was in the process of forming a team of 10 social welfare officers who would patrol the city and spread awareness about night shelters, so that the homeless could shift there temporarily. “We have opened all the night shelters in the city, which are run by the MCG. However, some of them have been lying vacant, as not a lot of people know about them. We have also asked the district administration to publicise these shelters and let us know if more funds are required to run them,” said Khattar.
The police said they have already asked their night patrolling teams to shift people sleeping in the streets to these shelters. Shamsher Singh, assistant commissioner of police (crime), said the teams had shifted six people sleeping outdoors in the last three days. “Most people do not even agree to shift to the shelters despite there being space,” Singh said. Officials assumed that this was because the homeless were not aware of what a night shelter was and were, in all probability, intimidated and wary of being picked up by the police.
The deaths have raised questions about the efficacy of the MCG’S night shelters serving the city’s most vulnerable residents.
Yashpal Yadav, MCG commissioner, said they were in process of developing an application where a user could check where the nearest night shelter was and could inform the MCG team if (s)he found any person sleeping in the open.
“We have also contacted social activists who distribute blankets at these shelters. We are educating people at shelter homes to connect with other homeless people and ask them to sleep at the night shelters,” Yadav said.
Yadav added the MCG had already started awareness campaigns at the bus stand, railway stations and near government hospitals.
Mukesh Kumar, the nephew of Yogendra Saha, one of the deceased persons, said he had no money to rent a room and was not aware of any night shelter in the area. “My uncle would sleep outside a shop to escape the cold. No one has ever told us of a night shelter, despite us sleeping on the streets for the last two years,” Kumar said.
SITUATION BETTER IN DELHI
The Delhi Police said they did not maintain a database of homeless people who died in winter, because it was difficult to determine if it was the weather, an illness or a drug addiction that caused the death.
Madhur Verma, deputy commissioner of police (New Delhi), said that only one homeless person was suspected to have died of cold in Lutyens’ Delhi this winter so far—a homeless woman whose body was found on the pavement near Mandi House Metro station on December 29.
Nupur Prasad, DCP (north district), and MS Randhawa, DCP (central district), said that to their knowledge, no homeless person was confirmed to have died of the harsh weather this season in their jurisdiction. A large number of homeless people live in Kashmere Gate, Paharganj and other neighbourhoods that fall under these two districts.