Shared by Nidhi Singh nee Batra -PRIA
The Census of India defines ‘houseless population’ as the persons who are not living in ‘census houses’. A ‘census house’ is referred to as a ‘structure with roof’. Census enumerators are instructed ‘to take note of the possible places where the houseless population is likely to live such as ‘on the roadside, pavements,. They are in hume pipes, under staircases or in the open, temples, mandaps, platforms and the like’ described variously as homeless, houseless, roofless, shelter less people, and pavement dwellers.
‘Invisibility’ of homeless groups renders them a difficult group to work with, although many may have lived several years, sometimes even a generation or two on the streets, they are seldom noticed by officials.
Delhi Urban Shelter Improvement Board (DUSIB) provides for ‘shelters’ for the poor. As it claims it has established and is operating 132 night shelters with all necessary infrastructure facilities located across Delhi. The irony is that out of this 132, only 64 are Tin Boxes or Tents.
As DUSIB claims -To ensure effective utilisation in a humanitarian manner and for maximum reach out to the homeless people of Delhi, the DUSIB has inducted the services of reputed NGOs in the field for operation and maintenance of all night shelters of Delhi.
It is said that in last winters, Rs 3 lakh was for a tin shed that falls apart in three months! Sixty four portas were installed in the capital at different areas, after the Supreme Court rapped the government in December last year for not managing temporary night shelters.
Around Rs 2 crore was spent on these porta cabins for the homeless, and now the government has to spend afresh a whole lot of money to make the structures compatible for summer. “We’re set to make some changes in the porta cabins so that the homeless can use them even during summers. It’ll cost something around Rs 50-80,000 per unit, though,” said Amod Kumar, who heads Mother NGO, Delhi’s nodal agency for the homeless.
The NGOS that have been running these shelters are demanding that fans should be provided there. But there complaints have met deaf ears so far.
“It is better to live under the shade of a tree than to live in these shelters. The tin sheets become very hot in the afternoon. A number of people have fallen ill. Dehydration is common. Some of us sleep outside the shelters and use them to keep our belongings only,” said Nirmal, a homeless.
“Hundreds of people come and live in these shelters every day but basic facilities such as fans have still not been provided by the government. A number of people have fallen ill. Since this shelter is near the Yamuna there is a huge problem of mosquitoes,” said Sameer Pathak, caretaker of the Yamuna Pushta homeless shelter run by Indo Global Social Service Society (IGSSS), an NGO.
The caretakers, NGO’s managing these structures say, they too were unsure of the design but as it was passed by the government, they accepted it. “Several NGOs raised questions over the design but after it was passed by the government, we stopped complaining. And now it’s a failed project,” says social activist Mansoor Khan.
However, the government claims the design was best available at that point of time, particularly compared to the tent structures used earlier. “I see porta cabins as a major positive change happening in the city. Though some changes are needed to make them ready for summers, it’s still the best possible design,” Kumar said. He adds: “We erected 64 porta cabins in a month’s time. At that point, that was the major hurdle. The material for insulating the cabins from summer heat was not only too expensive, but also taking too much time to procure.”
Todays Hindustan times also covers the story : http://www.hindustantimes.com/India-news/NewDelhi/Tin-houses-leave-city-homeless-high-and-dry/Article1-852855.aspx