Cold claims 6 lives on rainy night in Delhi

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January 19, 2014

NEW DELHI: Six homeless persons lost their lives to the chill and rain on Friday night. The bodies found one after another on Saturday around Kashmere Gate threw into focus the state's failure to make a shelter plan and a policy for the homeless despite directives from the Supreme Court and the Delhi high court.

January 19, 2014

NEW DELHI: Six homeless persons lost their lives to the chill and rain on Friday night. The bodies found one after another on Saturday around Kashmere Gate threw into focus the state's failure to make a shelter plan and a policy for the homeless despite directives from the Supreme Court and the Delhi high court.

North India reeled under icy conditions Saturday with 6 people dying of the intense cold in New Delhi

NGO workers from the nearby shelters found the body of a man-seemingly in his 40s and a day labourer-under a tree along the Yamuna Pushta in the morning. He had slept completely exposed to the wind, rain and chill although a shelter is barely 50 metres away. His decision did not seem inexplicable as evening came around and hundreds of homeless people crowded into the nine shelters on the stretch. By 5.30pm, there were queues at the shelters.

Ram Din, a labourer, said there's always a rush to get space before the shelters fill up. At one shelter, the caretaker, Sunil, said these days there's no room left by 6.30pm. "There is space for 40-50 people but these days we are accommodating 75. Many have to be turned away," he added showing the entries for the past one month in his register.

Sunil Kumar Aledia from the Centre for Holistic Development said the 10 shelters-nine at Yamuna Pushta and one at Yamuna Bazar-in the area have space for 400 persons while there are about 1,000 homeless labourers, rickshaw pullers, beggars and vagabonds. Drug addicts, he said, prefer to stay out in groups and are the hardest to get into shelters.

The mattress on which an unidentified man breathed his last near the Prachin Hanuman Mandir on Ring Road had not been moved. A subway's length away from it another man had died on a stony patch. Mahinder Singh, who does odd jobs like serving at weddings, was cooking his meal close by the subway. "Adat hogayi hai bahar sone ki. Wahan andar sone ke liey jagah kahan hoti hai. (I am used to sleeping in the open and anyway there is hardly any space inside)," he said. A rickshaw puller who stopped by said he does not get any space inside the shelters as he wraps up his work only by 10pm.

A group huddled under a flyover said sleeping in the crowded shelters is uncomfortable as it is impossible to even change sides. "The blankets stink, there are lice and drunk men who fight," one of them said.

One body was found near the flyover in front of the old Hanuman Mandir. The place has a large concentration of the homeless but only two tented facilities with room for 100 and 40, respectively, and three new porta cabins that aren't usable yet.

Nine of the 17 homeless people who have died this winter in the capital were living around Kashmere Gate. Another body was found on Friday at the old bridge that links north and northeast Delhi.

DCP North Sindhu Pillai said the bodies have been kept in a mortuary and will be sent for postmortem. Manish Sisodia, minister for urban development, has sought an inquiry into the deaths.


Courtesy: PTi