Delhi Government ousts homeless for Games: UN expert



United Nations: An independent UN expert has expressed concern about the deaths of homeless people in New Delhi due to cold as the government has 'demolished' number of shelters due to the upcoming Commonwealth Games.

"The lives of hundreds of homeless people in India are at risk as temperatures near zero degrees," warned Raquel Rolnik, the Special Rapporteur on housing.

"Ten homeless persons have already died from cold in the last month in New Delhi.

In northern India, around a hundred homeless persons have reportedly died in the states of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar due to the freezing cold that affected the region over the last few weeks," she added.

The Special Rapporteur underlined that while the homeless population in the capital has increased, the number of shelters "has recently been reduced from 46 to 24, in disregard of the Delhi Master Plan 2001 and the Delhi Municipal Corporation Act 1957."

In the last few months, Rolnik, noted that demolitions and evictions of homeless from places they used as shelters have been conducted by public authorities despite the cold weather.

The Commonwealth Games, according to her, seemed "to be one of the factors behind the closing down of a number of shelters."

The Special Rapporteur welcomed the decision by the Delhi High Court that required the government to provide shelter to 250 people after their nigh shelter was demolished by the Municipal Corporation.

Noting that the 250 people remained homeless, she urged the authorities "to comply with the latter and in this framework to halt the demolition of homeless shelters, to provide immediate assistance and adequate shelter to the affected persons and not to evict homeless persons in the winter, on humanitarian grounds."

The Special Rapporteur reported that a further 400 people were evicted in January 2010 from their shelter at Pul Mitahi, Sadar Bazaar, home to Commonwealth Games construction workers and Dalit families.

Rolnik is an architect and urban planner who was appointed as the UN expert on housing in 2008.

PTI