New Delhi, Jan 9: In India, poor are destined to die lonely and deplorable deaths.
A similar situation has been witnessed in Delhi when media reports stated that at least 44 people--all poor and homeless--have died due to cold wave conditions in the city in the last few days.
Since late December last year, foggy and cold weather conditions prevailed in the national capital. Delhi recorded a low of 4.2 degrees Celsius, the season's lowest temperature, on January 6.
On Monday, the minimum temperature in Delhi was five degree Celsius. While on the one hand, the weather is refusing to improve to give some succour to poor and homeless from cold, on the other, the apathy of politicians and authorities make the situation worse.
Instead of providing quick aid to poor, homeless people, who are forced to sleep on roads and open areas due to lack of shelter, Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal blamed Lieutenant Governor Anil Baijal over deaths due to severe cold in Delhi.
According to Kejriwal, Baijal has appointed a "useless officer" to head an urban shelter scheme.
The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and the office of the LG have had the history of the war of words over approval and implementation of various government schemes in the national capital.
Thus whenever, Delhi faces a crisis, the ruling Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) at the Centre and the AAP government in the national capital engage in political duels via the office of the LG.
"Media reporting 44 deaths of homeless due to cold. Am issuing show cause notice to CEO, DUSIB. Negligible deaths last year. This year, LG appointed a useless officer. LG refuses to consult us before appointing officers. How do we run govt like this?" tweeted Kejriwal on Monday.
Media reporting 44 deaths of homeless due to cold. Am issuing show cause notice to CEO, DUSIB. Negligible deaths last year. This year, LG appointed a useless officer. LG refuses to consult us before appointing officers. How do we run govt like this?— Arvind Kejriwal (@ArvindKejriwal) January 8, 2018
While the AAP convener put the blame on Lieutenant Governor Baijal, the BJP criticised the Kejriwal government for letting 44 poor people die in the winter, this time.
"If Kejriwal would have taken more interest in the homeless instead of his Rajya Sabha candidates, then we would not have heard about the deaths," said Delhi BJP chief Manoj Tiwari.
He added he was "shocked to see", during a survey on the streets at night, "how people were sleeping with the animals on the Yamuna riverbed under the open sky".
A quick walk through the streets of Delhi during winters will give a clear picture to anyone as to how poor struggle to survive. Most of the poor people who have no roof over their heads are seen sleeping and resting on footpaths and pavements of the national capital as cold wind pierces through their bones.
The condition of the homeless become more pitiable as they have no access to warm clothes or fire woods to fight the inclement weather conditions.
On its part, the Delhi Urban Shelter Improvement Board (DUSIB) on Tuesday, denied reports of deaths due to cold waves in Delhi.
Speaking to ANI, Shurbir Singh, CEO of DUSIB, said, "DUSIB rebut the facts shown by media that 44 people died because of cold in Delhi. No such case has been reported to the board. We have checked and found that not only in cold but also in summers such deaths happen. This is completely unfair to connect it with cold."
Singh added that there are more departments under DUSIB, including police, and they did not receive "anything as negative as this report".
"There are a total of 261-night shelters and all are active and all the facilities are available there. Till now, we have given shelters to more than 13,900 people. Our rescue team is completely functioning at night time on the ground and our control room is active at night. If we find any destitute on road we go to him and check if he wants shelter. With this practice, we have reached the number of 13,900," he said.
It is not just in Delhi, where homeless are dying, this winter. According to media reports, already 70 people in Uttar Pradesh have died due to cold weather conditions in the last few days.
"22 deaths have been reported from Poorvanchal; three each in Brij and Bareilly divisions; 11 in Allahabad division and 28 in Bundelkhand region. Two persons - Ram Kishore Rawat, 40, and Mahesh, 35, have died in Barabanki district due to the severe cold. One person died in Harchandpur in Faizabad, an infant in Ambedkarnagar, one in Rae Bareli's Makhdoompur and one in Unchahaar," reported IANS.
A government official said that adequate arrangements have been made for bonfires and night shelters in UP. Unfortunately, the ground realities are in stark contrast to all official claims leading to the deaths of so many homeless people because of the clear apathy by government agencies.