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Shifting homeless to night shelters not proving easy

New Delhi, January 6: Delhi Police might want to play the good Samaritan but the already overworked force are not finding it easy to shift hundreds of homeless in the tiol capital to shelter homes, from where many are preferring to stay away citing crowded conditions and lack of hygiene. Policemen admit that they often have to use “force” because of orders that no homeless should be allowed to stay out in the bitter cold of Delhi’s winter. “It is not an easy task to convince them (people sleeping outside). They usually prefer remaining outside till late at night as they find it easy to get food and blankets,” a station house officer, who did not wish to be med, told IANS.

“I took 12 homeless people staying under a flyover to three separate night shelters in my area. But two days later I found they had returned to the same place,” he added. Delhi has 205 night shelters. “During the night, people would give blankets if they were spotted on the roads. But they would sell the blankets the next morning,” another police officer told IANS. “The situation in a few night shelters is also very bad. They lack basic amenities and the toilets are poorly maintained. There is also a shortage of blankets. In the southwest, west and southeast districts, there is a huge shortage of blankets,” a report prepared by Delhi Police said. The report also said that some 1,000 people had been “persuaded” to move into the shelters at night.

As instructed by Lt. Governor jeeb Jung, Delhi Police have to started persuading the city’s homeless to utilise the night shelters extended by the government and sleep inside them. They also have to submit weekly report to Jung. On Monday, Jung asked the DUSIB (Delhi Urban Shelter Improvement Board) to start an active Whatsapp group on mobile number 8130135929, where people can share information.

The report said Delhi Police officers inspected the night shelters between December 29, 2014, and Jan 4, 2015, and found only 8,700 people sleeping inside against a capacity of 11,700. The report comes in the wake of 279 bodies being found in the city in December 2014 alone, the majority of whom were homeless who died due to the cold.

Now, station house officers and assistant commissioners of police (ACP), under the supervision of the deputy commissioner of police (DCP) concerned , inspect the shelters every night and submit a daily report to Special Commissioner of Police (Law and Order) Deepak Mishra. Police in the north district maged to shift 300 homeless people to the shelters on the night of January 4.

“On an average, we daily shift 200 people to night shelters during the drive between 7 p.m. and 9 p.m. Our patrolling staff drop off the homeless people in their vehicles,” Deputy Commissioner of Police (North) Madhur Verma told IANS. Delhi has 160 police stations under 11 police districts. “We welcome the initiative taken by Delhi Police. The Delhi administration should also take this matter very seriously, as it is their responsibility to look after the homeless,” Indu Prakash Singh, member of an NGO working for the welfare of the homeless, told IANS. According to another NGO, a staggering 30,958 homeless people have died in the tiol capital in the last 10 years during winter. (IANS)

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Ankur Kalita

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