More than 1,500 homeless persons found in West zone alone, reveals survey

File photo of a night shelter of the BBMP at Murphy Town in Bengaluru.   | Photo Credit: Sudhakara Jain

For Suresh from Kammaghatta near Kolar Gold Fields, sleeping indoors is a luxury. The 30-year-old, who has studied up to Pre-University Certificate level, sleeps by the side of the road, near Krantiveera Sangolli Rayanna Railway Station. He earns money by picking up plastic bottles and other items from waste in the railway station, and visits his family once every fortnight.

The roads are home to thousands of people like Suresh, who come to the city to eke out a livelihood but don't have the wherewithal to rent a home.

A survey of urban homeless by Dream India Network and Impact India Consortium, in association with the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP), undertaken in a few pockets in West zone over three days in December has identified 1,526 homeless persons. Over 50 volunteers participated in the survey, which has also identified pockets in the city centre where families who have migrated to Bengaluru live in temporary tents.

Uday Kumar S.B. from Impact India Consortium pointed out that the Supreme Court had directed State governments to draw up action plans to construct shelters for the urban homeless. The BBMP maintains six shelters, which is highly insufficient, he said.

Urban homeless have to pay for every basic necessity, right from using toilets, clean drinking water to food, he noted.

“They have to pay ₹5 to use public toilets, and ₹30 to bathe and wash their clothes. Since they sleep on the roads in squalid and unhygienic conditions, they often fall ill, increasing the mortality rate among the homeless. According to RTI responses, at least three homeless persons are found dead every month in Cottonpete, Upparpete, City Market and Kalasipalya police station limits,” he said.

When it gets cold outside, some homeless persons pay ₹10 to sleep in kalyan mantaps and temples. For instance, at the Maramma Temple in Kalasipalya, at least 200 people can be found sleeping on any given night.

“The urban homeless, a large percentage of whom are floating population, need a safe and dignified space or shelter with basic amenities for washing, eating, relaxing and sleeping, as per Article 21 (Right to Life) of the Constitution. Finally, there is something being done for the homeless in the city, with the first step being the survey in two zones (West and South) to identify major pockets where the homeless are usually found,” Mr. Uday Kumar said.

At least 20 shelters by the end of this financial year

There are just six shelters for the homeless in Bengaluru, when in reality, there should be at least a 100.

A three-day survey of some pockets in West zone has been able to put the number of homeless persons at 1,526. According to a survey conducted under the National Urban Livelihoods Mission (NULM) last year, the city has an estimated 13,000 homeless persons.

NULM’s project officer Sumathi B.S. told The Hindu that the Independent Impartial Committee for Urban Homeless, constituted as per the directions of the Supreme Court, had directed the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) to immediately start 10 shelters in August. The civic body has begun the process by conducting a survey to identify the beneficiaries.

She said that under NULM, ₹8.78 crore had been set aside this financial year towards providing shelters for the homeless. The funds are for 271 urban local bodies in Karnataka.

The BBMP, she said, was maintaining six shelters on its own. Under NULM, however, the civic body is eligible to get funds for the operation and management of shelters, apart from refurbishment and construction of new shelters. “It was only recently that proposals for operation and management of six shelters were approved, and ₹6 lakh per shelter per annum was sanctioned,” she added.

This funding, activists argued, is grossly inadequate, given the number of homeless persons. There are certain Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) specified under NULM, which the existing shelters lack, pointed out Edward Thomas, director of Dream India Network.

He said they were confident of mobilising funds under corporate social responsibility to run shelter homes, apart from identifying and providing land for the construction of the shelter homes. “The State government found land for construction of Indira Canteens so quickly. There needs to be political will to solve the homeless issue as well,” he added.

BBMP’s Special Commissioner (Welfare) D. Randeep concurred and said that while 100 shelters is a steep target, the civic body is looking at ensuring there are at least 20 shelters for the homeless in the city by the end of this financial year. The BBMP is also open to exploring proposals by NGOs to set up and maintain shelters. He added that the survey that was taken up in the most congested areas in the first phase would be conducted in other zones in a phased manner.

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Printable version | Apr 17, 2021 3:04:01 AM |

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