After court rap, Delhi scrambles to identify night shelters
New Delhi: After the Supreme Court rapped the Delhi government for failing to provide shelter to the city's homeless, city authorities on Wednesday convened a high-level meeting and decided to identify all possible venues to accommodate the homeless by Thursday morning.
Just hours after the apex court ordered the city government to provide shelter to homeless by Wednesday night, the government's Chief Secretary Rakesh Mehta convened an urgent high-level meeting with Municipal Commissioner KS Mehra and other senior officials.
"We have planned to increase the existing capacity of total shelters from 5,000 to 10,000. For this, we have asked the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) to open more temporary shelters as well as one permanent at Motia Khan (in central Delhi) as per court orders," Mehta said.
"We will act within 48 hours and hope this will address the problem," he said.
Mehta added that the government would conduct a survey on homeless people "very soon".
The MCD said that it would submit a report on all new locations by Thursday morning.
"Mehta has directed the MCD to identify more locations that can be used as shelters. We have to submit a report by Thursday morning and will start work immediately after that. We are looking at all available MCD buildings and community halls to be used for the purpose," MCD spokesperson Deep Mathur said.
The Supreme Court Wednesday morning ordered the Delhi government to provide night shelters to all the homeless in the capital by evening, taking note of the plight of the homeless during the extreme cold.
The apex court ordered the government to hold a meeting by 4.30 p.m. to decide how the order would be followed. In the past fortnight, Delhi authorities drew flak from courts for callously demolishing a temporary night shelter in the name of beautification ahead of the upcoming Commonwealth Games.
"The authorities must also ensure that the night shelters have basic amenities such as blankets, electricity and toilets," the apex court ordered in the morning.
This would be a high order for the government, which currently runs roughly 40 night shelters in Delhi. Their combined capacity cannot house even a small fraction of the capital's estimated 150,000 homeless people.
"The target to provide night shelters to all homeless by evening is unrealistic and impossible. However, it will certainly put pressure on authorities to work fast," Paramjeet Kaur of NGO Ashray Adhikar Abhiyan (AAA) said.
"The authorities will have to look for locations for setting up new shelters. There are a lot of factors involved which will need to be looked at," she added.