Over 100 Homeless Have Died in Delhi This Month as Cold Wave Grips Northern India, Claims NGO
As per Delhi government officials, there are presently 209 shelter homes that can accommodate about 16,660 people in India's capital. Despite government's claims, many homeless people still prefer sleeping on the streets to accommodation in these shelters.
At least 106 homeless people were found dead on the streets of Delhi from 1 to 19 January, according to the Centre for Holistic Development (CHD), an NGO working on housing Delhi's homeless people.
Of those found dead, 96 were male, nine were female, and the gender of one remains unknown.
The numbers continue to swell in this bone-chilling month of January, as Delhi sees colder nights and the maximum temperature has been around 15.4 degrees Celsius, four degrees below the average temperature.
Talking to Sputnik about the death toll, the NGO's founder Sunil Aledia said that on average, Delhi has recorded around 120 deaths among the homeless in the month of January over the past 10 years.
"Most of the deaths taking place in the open places are caused by unbearable cold conditions. The bodies are generally found under flyovers, on the roadsides or on park benches, in doorways, or covered under tarpaulin," he said.
Aledia also said that the coronavirus lockdown restrictions have exacerbated the impact of this wintry time of the year.
Many of them are particularly vulnerable to COVID-19. They avoid homeless shelters for fear of catching the virus from others and many other reasons. "Thus, these people tend to expose themselves to the harsh winter," Aledia added.
In January, as many as 32 homeless people at a shelter in Delhi's Connaught Place neighbourhood were found COVID positive. As the news spread, others too have avoided staying at the shelter home.
The Government's Winter Action Plan
Every year from 7 November to 15 March, a winter action plan is implemented in Delhi, where the city government is supposed to provide shelter, food, and basic amenities to the homeless in the Indian capital.
The government also claims to expand the numbers if required, however; still, either the homeless avoid sleeping at shelter homes due to their poor physical condition or they're too far away from them.
There are only 16,000 homeless people in Delhi, according to the city government. However, this figure is disputed by many experts.
According to the non-profit advocacy group Housing and Land Rights Network, the number of homeless people in Delhi stands at 150,000-200,000, of whom at least 10,000 are women.
Last month, a National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) team also visited a shelter home near Turkman Gate, New Delhi. It sent a notice to the city government complaining about "the abysmal infrastructure of the shelter home." It said the place is "overcrowded with no proper beds and mattresses provided, no water supply and the washroom is unclean".