New Delhi, 12 January
Delhi government’s innovative idea of providing shelter to the homeless in abandoned buses is not a permanent solution, but more need to be done, says NGOs.
The issue of homeless people is very gigantic and the irony is that it comes to limelight when mercury dips in the capital and the homeless are forced to sleep in street corners, said Chetna, an NGO working for the homeless.
As one of the homeless said, the plan of providing shelter in abandoned buses is a bold step but the decision came late. He said, "The plan should have been implemented before winter so that we did not have to sleep in bone chilling cold and as this is temporary, after winter the story will be repeated."
Delhi’s harsh winter threatens the lives of around 1,50,000 people, who have no option but to sleep on the streets and of these, women and children account for 50,000. Several NGOs have raised concern over the abysmally low facilities in shelter homes, but no measures have taken so far. As a result, homeless people find if safe to sleep on street rather than moving to shelter homes.
Even the Delhi High Court expressed displeasure over the government’s failure in preventing the death of homeless during winter.
Many NGOs praised the new government over its efforts in sheltering the homeless but said that it is not a permanent solution.
Sanjay Gupta of NGO Chetna said, "The commitment of the new pro-change government toward homeless is a good start, however, this issue is not as simple as it may appear. The government has to understand the dynamics of homeless people especially children’s situation and act accordingly. The issue needs to be seen as a matter of right rather than charity."
"I personally know more than 50 families which are living under flyovers, unoccupied homes or simply on streets since 1987. These people have been living by selling toys, balloons at traffic junctions and refuse to live in shelter homes for fear of their women folks being outraged. This is a situation that different parties need to look into as families with women and small children need special care and protection," said BC Prasad of the Credence, who runs many night shelters.
On the other hand, many praised the work of the government but says that the plan was implemented very late.
Rajesh Kumar, a Mayapuri resident said, "This plan had to be implemented before the minimum temperature started dipping in the Capital."
It is also believed that all homeless people are beggars, which is, of course, not. A large number of them are hard working labourers, rickshaw pullers from other states who have come to earn a living, but unfortunately have no roof over their heads.
Roshan, a rickshaw puller, said, "I can’t go to a place which is far away because I have to pull my rickshaw in my area. Going at night to the shelter home and coming back is a burden."
"We don’t feel safe in the night shelter. One can easily get robbed of money and belongings there. We feel protected around our own people," said 12-year-old Bobby (name changed).
About the issue of shelter homes at strategic places and the safety of people in shelter homes, a special officer said that they work for the relief of homeless people. It is not about building permanent homes but the concern is not getting land at strategic places. NGO Chetna suggested government schools for sheltering homeless in night.