Court expresses concern at death of homeless in Delhi

New Delhi, Jan 9 (IANS) The Delhi High Court Thursday expressed displeasure over the government’s incompetence in preventing the death of homeless people in the city as bitter winter cold set in.

A division bench of Chief Justice N.V. Ramana and Justice Rajiv Sahai Endlaw pointed out to the Delhi Urban Shelter Improvement Board (DUSIB) that the death of homeless people was a serious issue, in need of urgent action.
The court was hearing a suo motu case on the absence of enough night shelters and the lack of basic facilities in existing shelters.
The court’s direction came after counsel Reena George of an NGO that runs night shelters told the court that four deaths had taken place during the new year because of the cold wave in the city.
The bench also asked the Delhi government and police to inform it about the deaths which have taken place due to cold, along with the post mortem report.
The board was further directed by the court to appraise it about the state policy regarding permanent facilities for homeless people in Delhi.
It also asked the government to file an affidavit stating the immediate steps it is taking for providing help to the homeless in emergency situations, in such cold weather. The court also asked the board to ensure basic facilities in night shelters.
“The government is directed to file an affidavit indicating the policy of the state regarding permanent facilities which they are going to create for homeless people and also the immediate steps which they are taking for providing help in emergency situation. The government and police are also directed to file an affidavit about the deaths which have taken place along with post mortem and panchnama, if any, conducted on the deceased for fixing the responsibility,” the court said in its order.
The court also asked the joint apex advisory committee of Delhi government to convene a meeting within a period of a week and discuss the issue of police brutality on homeless people and submit a report.

The court would hear the matter Jan 27.
During the hearing Delhi Urban Shelter Improvement Board (DUSIB) told the court that the Blueline Transport Operators Association had volunteered to give seven unused buses for use as temporary night shelters.
“DUSIB has got these buses prepared for use as night shelters by removal of all seats. Four of these buses have been stationed at AIIMS, opposite Safdarjung Hospital and three buses have been stationed at Sarai Kale Khan bus terminal to provide night shelters to the homeless,” the counsel told the court.
In an affidavit filed by DUSIB, it stated that seven buses have been functional from Jan 8 and Blueline Transport Operators Association had promised to make another 20 buses available to DUSIB for temporary use as night shelters.
“Efforts are being made to expedite the process and as soon as these 20 buses become available they shall also be converted to temporary night shelters and deployed at the locations, wherever larger concentration of homeless people is found,” the affidavit said.
It further said that the ministry of urban development has also issued directions for establishment of 45 new night shelters in porta-cabins.
The affidavit also said that area SDM (sub-divisional magistrate) was also asked to carry out night patrols in their respective areas and had asked to submit a report regarding the number of people sleeping in the open in the night, this winter.
“SDM submitted report saying 4,018 persons were found sleeping on roads or in open,” the affidavit said, adding 62 officials of DUSIB have been deployed to carry out night patrols of areas assigned to them.