Shelter for homeless: HC asks Delhi govt to show policy

New Delhi, Jan 9: Not satisfied with the Delhi government's efforts in providing shelter to the homeless, the Delhi High Court on Thursday directed it to apprise it about its policy for the roofless and the number of deaths caused due to cold wave.

The directions were passed when the Delhi government informed the court that it has acquired seven unused buses to be used as temporary night shelters and is planning to acquire 20 more buses. The government also rejected reports that it is concocting the number of night shelters and triplicating them.

"They (Delhi government) are directed to file affidavit indicating the policy of the state regarding permanent facilities which they are going to create for the homeless people and also the immediate steps which they are taking for providing help in emergency situation," a bench of Chief Justice N V Ramana and Justice Rajiv Sahai Endlaw said.

"The Delhi government and the Delhi Police are also directed to file an affidavit about deaths which have taken place along with the post-mortem report, panchnama, if any conducted on the deceased for fixing up the responsibility," it ordered. The bench was informed by advocate Reena George that the joint apex committee, formed to look into issue of shelter, has not gone into the aspect of police brutality on homeless people.

On this, the bench said, "We direct the convenor of the apex committee to convene a meeting within a period of a week and discuss the issues once again and submit a report." The Delhi Urban Shelter Improvement Board (DUSIB), which functions under the Delhi government, also submitted an affidavit in the court detailing the minutes of the meetings of the joint apex committee and the steps taken for sheltering the homeless.

"The Blue Line Transport Operators Association has volunteered to give seven unused buses to be used as temporary night shelters by DUSIB. DUSIB has got these buses prepared as night shelters by removal of all seats etc. "Four of these buses have been stationed at AIIMS, opposite Safdarjung hospital and three buses have been stationed at Sarai Kale Khan bus terminal to provide night shelter to the possible homeless at these sites," the affidavit said. 

"Night shelters created in all seven buses have become functional from January 8. The association has promised to make another 20 buses available to DUSIB... Efforts are being made to expedite the process," the affidavit said.

When the court sought to know if there are any basic amenities with the shelter, the counsel for the government informed that these buses have been stationed near public toilets. The court was hearing the matter of providing shelter to homeless in the national capital. The matter was taken up by the court on its own in 2010.

The matter will now come up for hearing on February 21. Meanwhile, on media reports about death of two homeless people due to cold wave, the government said it has written to Delhi Police and the Chief Executive Officer of DUSIB is in talks with police about the toll and to prepare an emergency rescue plan. It said no report in form of autopsy to ascertain cause of death has been intimated to DUSIB and Delhi Police has assured that it will file a consolidated report on the matter.

The government also said that the ministry of Urban Development has "issued directions for establishment of 45 night shelters in porta cabins". It also detailed the meetings with the officials of DDA, MCD to identify buildings for running temporary night shelters and Railways for identification of sites for shelter for migrating population. DUSIB is inspecting the feasibility of sites at Nizammudin, Sarai Kale Khan, Yamuna Pushta, backside of Hanuman Mandir and Sarai Rohilla railway station.

Besides, SDMs of all areas and also officials of DUSIB are being directed to conduct night patrol and submit a report on number of people sleeping in open, the affidavit said, adding that so far 4,018 people were found to be sleeping in open at night. The affidavit said that the CEO of DUSIB has observed that Railways should provide some shelter arrangements for people dealing with cargo.

"The commercial activity undertaken by these temporary workers should be recognised as children are cleaning the boggies and collecting waste and even the master plan mandates that Railways is bound to take care of this migrating population."


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