It's the monsoon when intermittent rains are the order of the day
- or night - and roads are often waterlogged and damp. Yet, the
capital's many homeless and even beggars say they can be choosers
and opt to stay away from the government's night shelters because
they are in a state of complete disrepair.
Delhi has about 60 night shelters, of which about 17 are permanent
structures while 43 are termed temporary. Not enough for the
capital's official 70,000 homeless (NGOs put the number at
150,000), but supposed to help out at least some of those
desperately in need for shelter at night.
They are used by rickshaw pullers, balloon and vegetable sellers,
beggars, migrant workers and labourers. Many of the capital's poor
say they avoid them because they are ill maintained, lack water
supply and electricity and are in a state of decay.
Earlier this week, a temporary tented night shelter collapsed in
Chandni Chowk in old Delhi on Tuesday after a bout of heavy rains.
Nearly a dozen people were trapped but luckily no one was
The accident was waiting to happen, activists say. Agrees Savitri,
who was in the shelter when it came crashing down.
"For the past three months, there has been no electricity, no
water. The mats are wet and no new mats have been provided. Some
of them have even started smelling bad with earthworms in them,"
During the rains, water enters the shelter, she says, labelling
the shelters "inhuman".
Cash-strapped NGOs tasked with the upkeep of the shelters say they
too are helpless because they haven't been paid by the government.
According to Ashok Pandey of the Beghar Sangharsh Samiti
foundation, which has been looking after the welfare of homeless
for around 10 years, the authorities have not paid them since
February this year.
"We have not been paid for over six months now. In order to help
the homeless we used our money to maintain the shelters but now
even we are running out of money," Pandey told IANS.
Pramod from the NGO Khushi adds that several applications and
letters have been sent to Mission Convergence, which he says is
the authority supposed to pay them, but there has been no
Amod Kumar of St Stephens Hospital, the governing body of all the
NGOs, also says that they have not been paid since February.
"It's true that the NGOs have not been paid by the government.
There are several reasons behind it," he says.
"Steps are being taken to facilitate the payment."
The government in July this year had approached the Delhi High
Court to remove temporary shelters, which used to be set up only
The reasons cited were that most of them lie vacant and entail
huge costs. The appeal was, however, rejected.
"By not paying the NGOs, the government is forcing us to close the
shelters...It is but a conspiracy of the government," says social
worker Dhananjay Tingal.
While permanent night shelters are relatively in good shape, the
temporary ones are going from bad to worse, NGO workers say.
Delhi government officials could not be reached for comments. An
official of the Delhi Urban Shelter Improvement Board disconnected
the line when IANS sought his comments.
The Delhi government spends around Rs.45 lakh on temporary
shelters every month. This amounts to about Rs.1 lakh for each
shelter, NGOs believe.
Of this, NGOs that look after the facilities, cleanliness and
management of the shelters are paid Rs.24,400 per month per
shelter, explains Amod Kumar.
(Rashi Agarwal can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)