Homeless poor stay in filthy toilets to beat the cold, beaten up by security guards

the nights in filthy toilets, getting beaten up by security guards or sleeping amid stinking squalor — for thousands of homeless poor in the Pink City, finding a roof to sleep under in cold winter nights is an arduous ordeal, according to an investigation by the People’s Union of Civil Liberties (PUCL), Rajasthan.

According to the investigation, conducted on the eve of Human Rights Day, night shelters in the city, run by the Jaipur Municipal Corporation (JMC), have turned into centres of extortion, filth and disease.

The Supreme Court directives of 2010 mandate the provision of at least one night shelter—equipped with basic amenities like water, electricity, sanitation, beds etc—for every 100,000 persons in all major cities. By that calculation, Jaipur would need 35 shelters, seven more than it has at present.

“In 2009, the chief secretary of Rajasthan swore in an affidavit that all shelters in the city would be made permanent, running round the clock throughout the year. But the situation on the ground is a far cry from that,” said Kavita Shrivastava, national secretary, PUCL.

“The authorities have failed to provide the city's homeless with dignified shelters and basic amenties. Of the total 30 shelters claimed to have been set up by the JMC, only 28 exist,” said Ms. Shrivastava.

The PUCL investigation, conducted across the city by several teams comprising law students and activists, found homeless persons sleeping in the open, or under flyovers, in biting cold.

“Even in localities with night shelters, people were forced to sleep outside as most of these shelters have turned into centres of extortion with security guards doubling up as commission agents. They even charge people for using Sulabh toilets,” said Anushikha, one of the team members.

The night shelters that the investigation found to be particularly mismanaged included the ones in Raja Park, Janta Colony, Jhalana Institutional Area, Lal Kothi, Jaleb Chowk, Doodh Mandi and Khasa Kothi among others.

The team found inmates—most of them being construction workers, daily wagers and wedding labourers—being charged an illegal entry fee, ranging from Rs. 10 to 40, by security guards at several shelters.

“The guards have set up an illegal extortion system of their own...they charge Rs.10 from people with identity cards and about Rs.20-25 from those without identity cards,” said a team member.

Food was not being provided to inmates at most shelters while water in several places, including the Thadi Market shelter, was worm infested. Clogged toilets and torn mattress with bed bugs were another regular occurrence at several shelters, the investigation found.