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As winter nears, homeless brace for bone-chilling cold

Abhay Singh |

As winter approaches, homeless people in Delhi are dreading the long nights when they will have to battle the bone chilling cold.

Talking to The Statesman they said like every year they will have to battle for their survival this winter as they feel that not many arrangements have been made by the government to set up night shelters.

Living on the streets of the Capital for more than 15 years, Nandlal, a homeless man, said many people have been saying that Delhi is developing but nothing has changed for the homeless.

Showing his injury marks which he got living on the streets, Nandlal said,"We have lost hope that anyone will come to our help. We have to help ourselves to survive in the bitter cold."

Many homeless said if they succumbed to the cold, their deaths would go unnoticed.

According to the NGO, Center for Holistic Development (CHD), from 2004 to 2015, more than 33,000 unidentified dead bodies have been found in which 80 per cent are of homeless individuals. "The life of a stray dog is better than that of a homeless human. It is an irony that the group which is involved in keeping the Capital clean has been neglected by society," said a 16-year-old ragpicker.

In Delhi alone, there are as many 1.85 lakh homeless, while the official figure is 46,724. This figure has been time and again countered by activists, the NGO claimed.

The Delhi Urban Shelter Improvement Board said they have more than 200 night shelters, permanent and temporary, and they set to accommodate the homeless.

"We have all necessary facilities and the homeless will feel comfortable in shelter homes this winter," said a DUSIB official.

However, the homeless people claimed that most night shelters lack basic facilities like drinking water and toilets. Homeless women alleged that they face sexual and verbal abuse inside the night shelters.

"It is true that surviving in this freezing cold is not easy, but the only solace is we are safe here," said Sanno, a homeless person.

The other problem they face inside night shelters is theft but DUSIB claimed that in their homes they take proper care of security for the homeless people.

The Election Commission has come to the help of homeless people as they have organised Homeless Voter Registration Camps all over the Capital so that homeless people can get an identity and the right to vote.

"It’s time for affluent people to step out and take care of the homeless," said Sunil Kumar Aledia from CHD.

Census shows decline

According to an NGO,citing the last census held in 2011, India&’s homeless population has declined to just 17.73 lakh people.

The two mega cities known for their large homeless populations – Mumbai and Delhi – have just 57,416 and 46,724 homeless people respectively.

Rural homelessness declined by 30 per cent to 8.3 lakh people, while urban homelessness grew by 21 per cent to 9.4 lakh people, the data says.

Uttar Pradesh has nearly one-fifth of the country&’s homeless, and Maharashtra follows with 12 per cent. Other states with significant proportions of homeless are Rajasthan (10 per cent),Madhya Pradesh,Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat and West Bengal (8 per cent).

The city with the largest homeless population is Kanpur in Uttar Pradesh (80,877 people), followed by Kolkata (69,798),Mumbai (57,416 ),Delhi (46,724) and Surat (36,144).

The official homeless population includes 2.7 lakh children.