33,000 homeless people died on Delhi streets since 2004: MHA

New Delhi, Oct 18 (IANS) As many as 33,000 homeless people have perished in the national capital since 2004 due to various reasons and the dearth of night shelters has only aggravated the problem of survival for these street people, the latest union home ministry figures reveal.

According to the data released by the zonal integrated police network under the union ministry, 33,518 homeless people died in Delhi between January 2004 and October 2015.

For those forced to live under the open sky, the maximum deaths were reported in June as 3,695 destitutes died in this particular month during these years.

Sunil Kumar Aledia of the Centre for Holistic Development, which tabulated the data, said paucity of night shelters was one of the major reasons for the high number of deaths.

“There are nearly 150,000 homeless people in Delhi, of which only 4,890 get shelter. This is a mere 3.2 percent of the homeless population in the capital city. The rest are left to fend for themselves squeezed into limited spaces available otherwise, running the risk of contracting diseases. They often sleep on the roadside that increases the chances of accidents,” Aledia said.

He said most homeless died of communicable diseases and malnutrition. Such diseases are caused by a lack of basic amenities and hygiene.

“Not to talk of the people living on the roads, even those living in shelter homes do not get basic facilities there, which makes them prone to several fatal diseases. The shelter space is deficient by 87.4 percent of the Delhi Master Plan-2021 norms,” he said.

He said only 82 of the 184 shelters in Delhi were permanent and remaining 102 were temporary. This accounted for a mere 12.6 percent of the space proposed for them under the Delhi Master Plan-2021.

As per the Master Plan, nearly 19,37,520 square feet of space is required in the national capital to provide shelter for its homeless whereas the Delhi Urban Shelter Improvement Board (DUSIB), which runs the shelters across the city, has only 2,44,507 square feet of space available at present.

The National Urban Livelihood Mission’s Scheme for Shelters for the Urban Homeless (NULM-SUH) talks of providing 50 square feet of space per person. Going by the NULM-SUH guidelines, only 4,890 people can be accommodated in the available space, though DUSIB claims to cater to 25,000 people by making available 9.7 square feet of space per person in the shelters, Aledia added.

“This is way below the norm. In 9.7 sq.ft., one has to sit and sleep,” he said.

Moreover, many city shelters lack basic amenities, including separate toilets for men and women, potable water and security.

Delhi Commission for Women chief Swati Maliwal recently made surprise visits at a few shelters and came across several anomalies in their functioning.

Maliwal, along with DCW member Sarika Chaudhary and two volunteers, visited three night shelters run by DUSIB in Nizamuddin and Jama Masjid areas.

“There were very few toilets. There were no separate toilets for women. Night shelters meant for men and women are adjacent to each other in the same complex, with no security restrictions,” Maliwal told IANS.

“I have written to the director of night shelter, DUSIB, T.K. Meena regarding the anomalies and asked for a detailed point-wise status report, including steps to be taken to improve the situation,” Maliwal told IANS.

(Ashish Mishra can be contacted at ashish.m@ians.in)

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