NEW DELHI: Winter nights are meant to stay indoors wrapped in a soft blanket and enjoy the comfort of one’s home. But one man’s comfort is another’s unattainable luxury. Indu Prakash Singh has been working tirelessly each night to bring a little bit of warmth and comfort to the homeless in the city. And he has been doing this for the past 15 years.
Singh, an executive committee member of the Shahri Adhikar Manch: Begharon Ke Saath (SAM:BKS), has been on the night vigil for the last two days. He even spent last night identifying places needing more night shelters. “We are working closely with the Delhi government to provide shelter to the people during harsh winters,” said Singh. SAM:BKS is a network of 20 NGOs spread across the capital. As an executive committe member, Singh guides the NGOs, which pool in their resources to help the homeless.
A survey by the Commissioners of the Supreme Court Book puts the figure of urban homeless in Delhi at 1,80,000. The Delhi Urban Shelter Improvement Board (DUSIB) has 198 permanent shelters and 47 temporary tents for winter. But the maximum capacity of these accommodations is 19,000, just 10 per cent of the target population.
Singh met Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal thrice this year, the last on December 3. “The major reason for meeting with the CM was ouster of the security agencies managing the shelters,” said the 55-year-old. He said the government’s decision to hand over the management of a few shelters in the city to security agencies should be scrapped.
The Master Plan of Delhi 2021 states the space required to house the growing population of the homeless is 19,37,520 sq ft. The DUSIB has only 2,44,507 sq ft—a deficiency of 87.4 per cent. “As per the National Urban Livelihood Mission’s Scheme for Shelters for the Urban Homeless, the benchmark of space per person in a shelter should be 50 sq ft, but the DUSIB standard is 15 sq ft,” said Singh.
Left Out in the Cold
The All India Institute of Medical Science (AIIMS) has asked the DUSIB to remove a shelter that houses around 100 people at night. AIIMS wants to construct a new one in that place which is going to be managed by the CRPF. “This process is going to take time. What will the people do in that meantime?” said Indu Prakash Singh. The tent shelters mostly outstation patients and their family.