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The Bombay High Court on Saturday said that providing free shelters and food to the homeless, beggars and pavement dwellers will only increase their population if they are not asked in return to “work for the country” as per government schemes. It also said that “everything cannot be provided by the state to them”.
A Division Bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice Girish S Kulkarni was hearing a PIL filed by Brijesh Arya, founder president of an NGO called ‘Pehchan’, through advocate Kranti LC. The PIL had sought relief, including nutritious meal thrice a day, free shelters, clean public toilets and bathrooms, free, potable water, soaps and sanitary napkins for the homeless and urban poor.
The HC, while disposing of the PIL, said that the state government and Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) have taken steps in the right directions for the provision of food, water and sanitary napkins ‘within limits of their capacity’ and that no direction was required to be given for augmenting the distribution.
The HC also told the state and civic authority to consider making public toilets available for use without charging fees to enable homeless persons to avail the facility.
“They (the homeless) should also work for the country. Before they are provided shelters, where is a position that they will also work? There is employment or livelihood provided for them under government schemes. Everyone is working. Everything cannot be provided by the government, otherwise it will increase their numbers. You (petitioner) are just encouraging the increasing of such a population of society,” the Bench said in an oral observation.
On June 16, the court had sought to know from BMC as to why shelter homes cannot be built in every ward while the civic authority had sufficient funds.
On Saturday, the BMC counsel submitted a document signed by its assistant commissioner (planning) on June 10, revealing the number of food packets being distributed by the civic authority, Ness Wadia Foundation, Ramkrishna Mission and others to the homeless people residing in the city and distribution of sanitary napkins to 1,300 homeless women.
The BMC also submitted that a project providing solutions for resolving concerns of the homeless people is in progress and relief will be provided.
Additional Government Pleader Geeta Shastri said that the state government has taken various steps for the homeless during the pandemic, including providing free meals from cooked food dispensing units called ‘Shiv Bhojanalay’.
The court also said that while seeking relief, the petitioner lacked the initiative to carry out a thorough research on who these homeless people are, their population in Mumbai and what are the facilities that should have been offered to them by the state. These details can be put forth to the government with proper representation, the HC said.
After hearing submissions, the Bench noted in the order, “We are of the considered opinion that the State and the Corporation are taking steps in the right directions for food, water, napkins etc for homeless within the limits of their capacity and no direction is required at this stage from this court for augmenting the distribution. PIL petition stands disposed of.”
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