The city is experiencing a harsh winter this year, but a large number of homeless continue to sleep in the open.
In a recent inspection, a committee appointed by Supreme Court to monitor urban homeless shelters found several people in areas such as Nehru Place, Hauz Khas, Nizamuddin, Karol Bagh and Asaf Ali Road sleeping on the pavements. It also observed that the shelter management agency showed inflated figures of people residing there.
“The agencies running the shelters provide tea and rusk to the residents each morning and the money spent on the snacks is reimbursed by the government.
By showing inflated numbers, they pocket this money,” alleged Indu Prakash Singh, a committee member.
Singh also stressed on the need of setting up more shelters. “A large number of people used to sleep under flyovers, which have now been fenced and plants put there to beautify the space. I have asked Delhi Urban Shelter Improvement Board (DUSIB) to call an immediate meeting of all stakeholders to resolve the issues,” he added.
The homeless population is officially put at about 17,000. DUSIB has set up about 250 shelters, including 198 permanent ones, with a combined capacity of 18,000. DUSIB member-expert Bipin Rai said the number of people who stayed in the shelters touched 13,000 during peak winter.
Sunil Kumar Aledia of Centre for Holistic Development, which works for the underprivileged, said medical teams visiting the shelters twice a week were often under-equipped. “The teams do not have specialised doctors to check women and children. Sometimes the doctors don’t even have the basic medicines,” he alleged.
Senior DUSIB officials said an agency has been hired to monitor the functioning of the shelters and it will start working from next week. “Though we have our own teams, the external agency will strengthen our checking mechanism,” a senior DUSIB official said.
On the issue of people sleeping outside, the official said there have been several instances when the homeless refuse to go to a shelter. “We have 16 rescue teams managed by six shelter management agencies to take the homeless to the shelters, but they leave as they often get donations, blankets and food at night,” he added.