JAIPUR: Rajasthan seems to be paying little heed to the orders of the Supreme Court and high court on providing shelter to the homeless. In a damning third report to the high court, the three commissioners – Rajendra Bhanawat, Bhupendra Singh and Ashok Khandelwal – appointed to file status reports and suggest measures for the effective implementation of the court’s orders said, “The homeless of Jaipur do not find place in the scheme of the Smart City…we cannot have smart cities when thousands of people live on the street.”
“There is total lack of operation, management and monitoring of shelters for the homeless in accordance with court orders and SUH (Scheme for Urban Homeless). In reality, barring exceptions, there are no shelters for the homeless operational in Jaipur in the real sense. Most of them exist for namesake and provide some protection with erratic basic facilities during winters,” the report submitted a week ago to the HC says.
The report states that even though three-fourths of the expense for such shelters is provided by the Centre, the state has not accessed these funds. In their introduction, the commissioners note that the Jaipur Municipal Corporation, which is tasked with making a ‘Smart City’, is also entrusted the task of running these shelters. There are 16 permanent shelters for the homeless in the city; 13 temporary ones too have been functional in recent months. SC orders and norms of the SUH do not provide for temporary shelters.
The commissioners note, “The available shelter capacity comes to less than five per cent of requirement.” As per the norms, there ought to be shelter for 100 homeless people for every one lakh of population – Jaipur has a population of close to 35 lakh, and under the norms there ought to be at least 35 shelters that could house about 3,500 people. The official capacity of the permanent and temporary shelters currently available is only 650.
The location of these shelters is also chosen with no concern for the population it is meant to serve – JDA has allotted some space for these shelters in whatever building was available. At Bais Godam, the shelter is just one room within the fire station where there are no toilets and no water. Moti Doongri has five shelters, but the greatest need is in Sanganer. “The shelters are not located in the zone where high numbers of homeless are located,” the commissioners noted.
“It appears they (shelters) have come up not on need basis but rather as a knee-jerk reaction in order to comply with court orders,” the report said.
Under SC directions, 30% of all shelters should be for special categories – children, the sick, women, families. There are no shelters for these categories in any city of Rajasthan. A survey by the Institute for Development Studies (IDS), Jaipur, had shown that 50% of homeless live with families.
Within the shelters, facilities are abominable, the commissioners found after visiting all 16 permanent shelters in Jaipur in September last year. Two had no electricity connections; even in November and December, during instense cold, there was not enough bedding or quilts for those seeking shelter. Not all shelters had safe drinking water or easy access to toilets. Under the norms, those living in these shelters should also get lockers to keep their belongings safe – this just did not exist.
The commissioners also warned against spending on construction and refurbishing of existing shelters without proper mapping of the homeless and planning, saying that this could lead to enormous wastage.
Staff too was not just inadequate but also poorly trained. At some shelters, guards insisted on identity cards to admit people, and turned away those with problems of addiction. Under the norms, there ought to be one manager and three caretakers for each shelter. In practice, many of these only had guards, who were deputed to these shelters from the home guards. Treatment or counselling facilities were missing, even though it was apparent that there was a high degree of medical need among the homeless. “For the homeless, the government does not exist,” the report said.
Five groups of volunteers undertook a walk through parts of Jaipur in November and December to ascertain numbers of the homeless. They found 2,701 homeless people including 422 young children. “The number is substantial, given the whole city was not covered. There was an impact on labour supply due to demonetisation,” the commissioners note.
Two reports in the matter have already been submitted. “There has been no action on the earlier two reports,” the commissioners note. Will there be action, then, on this one?
Credits ET Realty