Two Supreme Court commissioners had submitted a report indicting the Delhi government for neglecting its homeless people. On the basis of their report, the apex court Wednesday ordered provision of night shelters to the homeless by the evening itself.
The two former bureaucrats were appointed to help the apex court adjudicate a lawsuit to end the plight of the homeless in Delhi.
In their joint report dated Jan 13, court commissioner N.C. Saxena and special commissioner Harsh Mander told the Supreme Court that the "Delhi government has failed to take requisite steps to protect the people living on the streets from this extreme weather despite Delhi witnessing this year some of the coldest temperatures in the last decade."
While last year there were 46 shelters during winters, which included 17 permanent shelters and 29 temporary ones, this year the number has been reduced to 33 (17 permanent and 16 temporary)," said the commissioners’ report, adding that "out of these 16 shelters, one was demolished."
"It is imperative that the Delhi government responds to the situation immediately by setting up more shelters and protecting homeless people from the cold," the court commissioners said.
Talking of the vulnerability of the homeless people, the report said: "It must be realised that malnutrition and hunger are the underlying causes making people susceptible to extreme weather conditions."
"There is ample scientific evidence that shows that due to increase in basal metabolism rate (BMR), with the fall in temperature, higher calories are required by the body to maintain body temperature," said the report.
The report also sought to lay the blame of deaths of homeless in Delhi on its chief secretary, stating that "the apex court earlier in 2002 had held that the accountability of any starvation death in a state lies with its chief secretary."
Harsh Mander told IANS Wednesday: "It is not possible to do it by evening but the Supreme Court order certainly puts a pressure on the government to act urgently on the matter."
"It is unfortunate and unforgivable that the Supreme Court had to remind the government about it. Don’t they see the homeless in the city, they should have acted upon it by themselves," he said.
Asked about Delhi’s plan to become a world class city ahead of the Commonwealth Games, he said: "World class city is not just related to infrastructure. World class city is one which is just and compassionate to its poor."
–Indo-Asian News Service