by Akhilesh K Prasad
Winter season has been a question of survival for Delhi’s homeless. To help them see through the ordeal, the Delhi government advocated a winter action plan which was rolled out in mid-November. The Delhi Urban Shelter Improvement Board has arranged facilities in accordance with this plan at all night shelters in order that people living on footpaths have a roof over their heads, especially between November and March when mercury is at the annual minimum.
DSUIB is said to have 20,000 blankets in stock while NGOs working for the homeless have contributed 15,000. According to DSUIB member Bipin Rai, 5,000 mattresses and durries were also purchased by the DSUIB to ensure a comfortable stay for the homeless at the shelters. 50 high-quality fireproof tents were set up this year apart from the existing 198 shelters, which include 83 buildings and 115 porta-cabins. There is provision for washing the mattresses pillows and blankets every few days. The winter action plan also included the provision of pollution masks. 10,000 to 15,000 masks were said to be provided by the Directorate of health services.
As mercury dipped to below 4 degrees in the latter part of December, as many as 16,000 homeless flocked to these shelters, locally called ‘rain bases’. However, are these preparations enough?
According to a 2014 survey, Delhi has an estimated 16,760 homeless. UNDP put the figure at 55,955. Civil society, however, believes that 1% of the total population of the city is homeless. Permanent shelters in Delhi can accommodate 16,834 homeless and temporary ones are needed to enhance capacity. The Delhi Master Plan says there should be at least one shelter for a population of 10,000. That means Delhi fulfils needs of 80-85% of the homeless and there is some deficit of shelters. It is therefore pertinent that the government looks towards how and where more permanent shelters should be constructed.
Activists also believe that the government is too late in implementing the action plan. All preparation should ideally be completed by October and the action plan should kick in by November 1.
Taking into consideration the opinion of the NGOs and Civil Society, we hope to see more government initiatives for the homeless in the near future.
An MBA by qualification, Akhilesh has dabbled into various businesses. He is a keen debater, data miner and analytically inclined. His blogs tend to present a fresh perspective on any given matter