Human Rights Commission Intervenes as Dozens of Homeless Asked to Leave Shelter Home in Delhi
In an official notice issued last week, the Delhi government asked homeless people staying at a temporary shelter home – Haj Manzil – to vacate its premises. Most of them are elderly people.
In 2020, when a pandemic-induced lockdown hit the nation, 68-year-old Jaggu Singh, a migrant worker in Delhi, was unsure where to go.
He was abandoned by his two sons in 2016. After that, Singh worked as a utensil washer at roadside eateries to make his ends meet. Singh would sleep in the streets or on pedestrian paths lying along flyovers of the city.
At the time, the Delhi government set up a temporary shelter home, Haj Manzil, at the heart of Old Delhi. Singh decided to move there.
A few days ago, residents of Haj Manzil received a government notice to vacate the shelter home by the first week of May, leaving Singh and 80 other people in immense distress.
"This shelter is more than a home to me. Everyone knows me here and talks nicely. They have become my family", Singh told Sputnik.
In 2020, the Delhi Urban Shelter Improvement Board (DUSIB) set up 11 shelter homes across the city when the first nationwide lockdown was announced in March.
Of these 11 shelter homes, eight have been closed in the last eight months as they were temporary.
Now it's Haj Manzil's turn. The building was constructed to provide accommodation to people from other states planning to go on Hajj, the Islamic pilgrimage.
Two other shelter homes situated in central Delhi have been given a month’s extension for vacating.
Deepak Kumar, 24, an orphan and student, said, “I came here two years ago. I got into a college with help from an NGO. Now my exams are nearing and the government has issued a notice to vacate the premises. Where do I go?"
“I just need one more year. Once my study is completed and I get a job, I will rent a house. If we had to go to the streets, I would have to go back to sleeping on footpaths and risk my studies and live in this sweltering heat of summer”.
Rights Commission Intervenes
Meanwhile, India's National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has intervened in the matter.
On Monday, the rights commission sent a notice to Delhi's Chief Secretary Naresh Kumar after receiving a complaint from one of the residents at the Haj Manzil shelter home.
“The allegations made by the complainants are serious in nature involving the right to life of poor, hapless and helpless homeless persons and the indifferent attitude of the authority. The case involves grave violations of the human rights of inmates”, reads the NHRC's notice.
Delhi Urban Shelter Improvement Board (DUSIB) CEO Bipin Rai has said that all of the homeless will be relocated to other shelter homes.
However, Rai failed to answer when asked which shelter homes the other homeless were shifted to.
The city of Delhi has 195 shelter homes to accommodate around 17,000 homeless people. As per the DUSIB, there are an estimated 16,760 homeless people in Delhi and all the shelter homes are overcrowded.
According to the city government, there are only 16,000 homeless people; 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.
NGO Questions Delhi Gov't's Approach towards the Homeless
Coming down heavily on the city government, Sunil Kumar Aledia, the founder of the Centre for Holistic Development, an NGO working for housing Delhi's homeless, told Sputnik, the "Delhi government believes in advertising not focussing on real issues".
"There are so many people out there in the streets of Delhi. Instead of doing something for them, they're increasing the numbers."
"During winter, Arvind Kejriwal-led the Delhi government spent millions [of rupees] on advertising and telling people that they constructed temporary shelters. Now, also he should advertise and tell how many people turned homeless because of him", he added.