Poor out in the cold as shelters decree is ignored

Bangalore lags behind other cities, yet to comply with Supreme Court directive

January 17, 2013 09:08 am | Updated November 17, 2021 04:25 am IST - BANGALORE

Night shelters are being built too far away, defeating their very purpose. File photo: K. Murali Kumar

Night shelters are being built too far away, defeating their very purpose. File photo: K. Murali Kumar

Over two years after the Supreme Court directed State governments to build night shelters for the homeless in cities across the country, and at least half a dozen missed court deadlines later, the Karnataka government is yet to comply on this important directive.

Bangalore has a mere 15 shelters while 180 (of a capacity of 50 each) should have been built by mid-2010, according to the ratio of one shelter per lakh citizens stipulated in the Supreme Court directive.

Harsh Mander, Special Commissioner appointed by the Supreme Court to monitor the implementation of its interim orders in this case, told The Hindu that he found that there is “very little progress on this front.” “Not enough efforts are going into this, obviously, going by the numbers. We have also found that the shelters are being built too far away, which defeats the purpose of building them,” he said.

‘Full of assurances’

Speaking to The Hindu after delivering a lecture, Unequal India, organised by the Azim Premji University, Mr. Mander said he had met the Chief Secretary earlier in the day. “Not much has been done yet. But the meeting was full of assurances with the Karnataka government telling us that they were planning to work towards fulfilling the SC requirements on this.” But, he added, that this needed a “whole different imagination or attitude where the city has to be designed in a way where the disadvantaged can live with dignity”.

Compliance on this count, Mr. Mander said, was better in other cities. India is among the few countries where there has been a court directive that clearly stipulates what needs to be done to protect the right to shelter and livelihood; but there needs to be more will to implement and take this forward, he said.

Idea of India

Earlier, delivering the public lecture at The Energy and Research Institute, he spoke about the many inequalities in our society. The “idea of India” was based on a fair, equitable and just society, and more importantly, one where the state promises equal protection to people who worship different religions, of different genders or belong to different caste or communities.

“We’ve faltered and slipped since, but that central idea remains. That idea belongs to the long lineage of such ideas, from Asoka to Akbar, Kabir, Gandhi and Ambedkar,” Mr. Mander said.

Mr. Mander also discussed his book Ash in the Belly: India’s Unequal Battle against Hunger , published by Penguin.

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