The Delhi Urban Shelter Improvement Board (DUSIB) has started relocating able-bodied homeless persons “within” Santosh Rain Basera shelter home in Central Delhi’s Matia Mahal locality after a Delhi High Court order ruled that the home should provide facilities only to “pregnant women and lactating mothers”.
The court noted that the shelter home, which was started in 2011 as a home for destitute pregnant and lactating mothers, has been “monopolised by able-bodied persons”.
Speaking to Newsline, CEO of DUSIB, Amarnath, said, “Most families that live here were slum dwellers. We were asked to rehabilitate them after their houses were demolished. The building was turned into a temporary night shelter. The pregnant women in question are mostly from those families. Very few, if any, are without families. We cannot throw the able-bodied homeless out but we are making arrangements to isolate the portion where the women stay. We can only relocate the able-bodied homeless, not rehabilitate them.”
According to shelter’s in-charge Lovely Sharma, it has 310 residents at present, of which only 141 are pregnant women and lactating mothers. There are six halls in all — five are occupied by pregnant women and their families, whereas one works as a night shelter for male dailywage labourers.
“A lot of beggars — men, women and children; able-bodied and disabled, senior citizens and widows — live here. The court allows only pregnant women to stay till the baby is born and mothers are lactating. But where will the others — senior citizens, the disabled, widows — go?”
Kishanlal (62), crippled by polio since infancy, belongs to Karnataka but came to Delhi four decades ago and worked as a balloon-seller. He has been living at the shelter for the past four years.
“If the government had to throw me out, why bring me here in the first place? I have no family. This is my only home. I got an Aadhar card here, ID proofs have this address,” he said.
The High Court order came earlier this month after a 25-year-old resident, Priya Kale, approached the court with help from Human Rights Law Network (HRLN) following the loss of her two-month old baby due to “cold and unhygienic conditions at the home”.
Kale told Newsline that the shelter had “improved a lot” after the court order. Meals were provided twice a day. A one-bedded hospital had also been opened earlier this month, where a doctor comes every Thursday to check the pregnant women and lactating mothers.
“She gives them the necessary medicines, nutritional supplements and administers the required injections. We have asked for a permanent doctor, though, who can take care of them round the clock,” Sharma said, confirming the opening of the hospital.
Three geysers, each with a capacity of 25 litres, and two round-the-clock water connections have also been provided to supply uninterrupted hot water to the inmates. There are eight bathrooms and toilets for men, and five bathrooms and nine toilets for women.