In 2000, a study done by the Aashray Adhikar Abhiyan (an NGO working in the field) had put the homeless figure at 52,765.

Just how many homeless people are there in Delhi? Sadly, there seems to be no correct answer. From just 25,000 to more than 10 times of it, the survey of the homeless has thrown up remarkably divergent figures over the past 15 years.

Clashing figures provided by the government agency and those given by non-government organisations make the exact number of homeless a clueless riddle-like game.

Experts working in the sector blame the “exclude all’’ attitude of the government for the incorrect figures. In 2000, a study done by the Aashray Adhikar Abhiyan (an NGO working in the field) had put the homeless figure at 52,765.

“We, however, believe that for every one person counted we have missed one as we could not go into all the lanes and bylanes. There were many homeless residents still working until 3 a.m. in trading centres of Old Delhi and Sabzi Mandi,’’ said Indu Prakash Singh, executive committee member of the Shahri Adhikar Manch (an NGO working for the welfare of the homeless).

The following year in 2001, the Census by the Government of India put the number of homeless at 24,966, which was actually lower that what had been projected by the NGO.

“The figures in 2006 by the Delhi Human Development Report listed homeless at a lakh. But the 2007 figures again went down to 46,788. Then a survey by the Indo Global Social Service Society in 2008 put the number of homeless at 88,410 and stated that the actual figure could be 1,50,000,’’ said Mr. Singh.

The mapping and counting of the homeless in Delhi suffered a set back in 2010 due to the Commonwealth Games, which forced over half the population of homeless to leave the city. In the survey, two densely populated districts of Delhi – North and Central – were not counted. Also New Delhi wasn’t covered. The number of homeless that year was counted at 55,955 – a third of the 2008 figure.

“However, in 2011, the Supreme Court Commissioner’s Office, which used a new technique to map the homeless, found their number to be 2,46,800. However, the census pegged it much at 46,724 the same year,’’ noted Mr. Singh.

Meanwhile, as the agencies struggle to reach the correct figures on the homeless, on the ground, they continue to suffer from neglect and remain exposed to both manmade and natural troubles.

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