ROURKELA: With mercury dipping in several parts of Sundargarh district in the last few days, it is the homeless who are the worst hit. In absence of a place to call home, they prefer to spend the nights sleeping on shop verandahs or under the open sky than to shift to a shelter home run by Rourkela Municipal Corporation (RMC).
Most of them are rickshaw-pullers, jobless persons or rag-pickers. Nanku Badaik (40), a rickshaw-puller, after a day of hard work settles down on the marble-floored pavement before a shoe store at Uditnagar in the Steel City for the night. Locking his cycle-rickshaw nearby, he carries his food to the place and after dinner goes to sleep on a plastic sheet and a torn blanket fighting the cold night.
Badaik of Jhunmur in Kuanrmunda block of the district, stays in the city to eke out a living and raise his four children. His two daughters are studying in Class-X and VIII and two sons Class-V and III. Badaik says though his wife and children are aware of his daily predicament and insist on his returning home, he has no other option.
Badaik claims he is unaware of any facility such as shelter homes and says this place helps him to protect his belongings and rickshaw. Badaik shares the space with one Hardeep Singh (50), who was turned down by his brother for being jobless.
A destitute woman, abandoned by her family, spends cold nights under a tree at the second entrance to Uditnagar police station here. She has even declined the offers to shift her to a shelter home in past. While reasons behind their preference to sleep on streets than in the comfort of shelter home is not known, many destitute say the open sky suits them.
The Corporation has three shelter homes, at Rourkela bus terminus, Plant Site and Power House Road areas, with a combined capacity to accommodate 310 homeless persons but occupancy remain at 30 to 40 per cent.
RMC Commissioner AK Mallick said, the homeless just need to show a valid identity proof to stay at the shelter homes free of cost. It is strange to notice that despite all our efforts most of the homeless deliberately stay away from these homes, he added.
Rourkela city on Saturday recorded a minimum temperature of 10.6 degree Celsius and maximum of 29 degrees, while Sundargarh district headquarters town, located about 100 kms from here recorded the night temperature at 6.5 degree Celsius.