VIJAYAWADA: At 10.30 pm on Wednesday, H Rajesh was eagerly waiting near Prakasam Barrage for Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu to reach his home in Undavalli. The reason: Once the TDP supremo’s convoy crosses the barrage, police will allow him to sleep on the pavement there. He was not alone. About 50 others like him hit the sack on the pavement. Most choose the pavement not because there is nowhere else to go, but as the two night shelters in the city insist on Aadhaar cards for entry.
“I came from Rajamahendravaram six months ago in search of work. I am a daily-wage worker and get work only a few days a month. When I tried to spend the night at the shelter in Hanumanpet, I was asked to show my Aadhaar card. I wasn’t allowed inside as I didn’t have the ID card,” Rajesh said.
The pavement is cold comfort for those who have been spurned from night shelters as mercury levels dip as low as 15 degree Celsius there at night. “It gets really cold as there is water under the barrage. Even though I cover myself with a newspaper or a blanket, it doesn’t help. For homeless senior citizens, cold nights are a nightmare. “I am 55 years old and don’t have any proof of identity. What about people like me? I just keep praying that I don’t die in my sleep due to the cold,” said B Shankar, who moved to Vijayawada a long time ago from the port city of Visakhapatnam.
The VMC has announced three more night shelters. “Once the three facilities become operational, 300 more beds will be available,” a senior VMC official added. On its part, Guide Foundation, which manages the night shelters in the city, maintained that they made Aadhaar mandatory to filter out people with criminal backgrounds.Murali Krishna, the manager of the foundation, however, clarified that people with other identity proofs are also provided shelter.
3 more shelters promised
Vijayawada has two night shelters, one in Hanumanpet and another at Rani Gari Thota, with a collective bed capacity of 152. Even though the VMC announced three more facilities near Raghavaiah Park, Ramarajya Nagar and Krishnalanka two years ago, they are yet to be ready