After drawing flak from the Delhi High Court for not providing night shelters for them, the Delhi Urban Shelter Improvement Board (DUSIB) on Wednesday said several homeless people just refuse to move into night shelters.
“Forty per cent of the homeless are drug addicts and prefer to stay outside the shelters,” DUSIB member Ashish Joshi said, adding that the “addicts” often sell the blankets, donated by citizens, for money to buy drugs. “In Khusro Park, Nizamuddin, the police told us that there is stiff opposition from the local drug cartel against shelters being set up because if shelters are there, then there will be monitoring by the DUSIB, the Health department and NGOs,” he said.
The DUSIB sought court orders to the police to crack down on drug trade among the homeless and in jhuggi areas. The High Court has been monitoring the issue of night shelters for the homeless since 2010 and had directed the DUSIB and NGO Shehri Adhikar Manch (SAM:BKS) to conduct a joint inspection of areas to identify zones with high population of homeless.
During the brief hearing before Chief Justice G Rohini and Justice R S Endlaw, the DUSIB claimed the team members were abused by the homeless, who refused to use the shelters. Representatives of the NGO, however, told the court that it was DUSIB officials who had been threatening the homeless and keeping them away from the shelters.
Besides, the DUSIB said rickshaw-pullers and people with roadside carts and shops also refused to use the shelters, fearing their rickshaws or carts would be stolen. They prefer to sleep near their rickshaws or carts, an official said.
The DUSIB claimed a joint inspection team visited several areas pointed out by the NGO and found that in at least 23 places, there were no homeless on the road. The court reserved its judgment in the case and warned the NGO against “merely making speeches”.