Their deteriorating condition and lack of infrastructure are only part of the problem, say activists; there are only even shelters to cater to the needy
A shelter home provided by the BBMP near the city railway station in Bengaluru. Little has been done to improve them despite promises by the civic body.
Poorly ventilated cramped rooms infested with rodents and cockroaches and unusable toilets define two shelters for the homeless on Goodshed Road in the heart of the city.
“Bandicoots run riot in the shelter at night. Those sleeping on the lower bunks are at risk of being bitten,” said Saravana, 50, who has been here for as long as he can remember.
Many — like 67-year-old autorickshaw driver Srinivas, who has been staying at a shelter for more than a fortnight — have little say in the improvement of the facilities.
“I was sleeping at the railway station when someone brought me here. I’m dependent on the shelter home at night, while I have all meals at Indira Canteens,” he said.
The deteriorating condition of shelters and lack of infrastructure are not the only problem. Bengaluru’s seven shelters are simply not enough to cater to this section of the population, said activists, who highlighted the problem that no
one wants to talk about on ‘World Homeless Day’, which was observed on October 10.
A year after a survey by several non-governmental organisations reported the need for more shelters, little has been done despite promises from the civic body. The survey pegged the number of homeless people at over 5,100, and this
does not include those who get by living in pitched tarpaulin tents. The maximum — 3,961 — are in the three core zones of West, East, and South.
According to Bengaluru-based activist S.S. Rajani, who was part of the survey, the BBMP had promised to set up 30 shelters within six months. However, the situation on ground remains unchanged. “There are only seven shelters in the
city – four in West zone, and one each in East, Dasarahalli and Bommanahalli
zones,” she said.
As per guidelines of the Supreme Court, it is mandatory to have one shelter for every 1 lakh population. Given that Bengaluru’s population is around 1 crore, the city needs at least 100 shelters, they argued. The seven existing shelters lack basic facilities, said Narasimhappa T.V., a researcher and member of the Independent Impartial Committee set up by the State government following the SC guidelines.
“As per the National Urban Livelihoods Mission (NULM) guidelines, shelters should be well ventilated, have adequate bathing and toilet facilities, pest and vector control, regular cleaning and maintenance of other services, among others. There is no coordination between NULM and BBMP,” said Mr. Narasimhappa.
He alleged that during one meeting, BBMP officials claimed that permission had been granted to set up 11 new shelters. The civic body has submitted a proposal to NULM on setting up shelters using pre-fabricated structures. These structures, complete with internal piping, geysers and lighting and with a capacity to accommodate 20 two-tier beds, can be set up in the identified space within a week.
NULM project director Sumathi B.S. said that while no complaints had been received with regard to condition of shelters, an inspection of the facilities will be conducted shortly.
“The NULM is ready to convene a special meeting to discuss setting up of more shelters for homeless. However, the BBMP is not taking any initiative. We have even given in-principal approval to BBMP’s proposal to set up shelters using pre- fabricated elements. We are yet to get a detailed report about the same from BBMP,” she pointed out. Despite repeated attempts, BBMP’s Deputy Commissioner (Welfare) Nagendra Naik was not available for comment.
Women more vulnerable
Lalitha, a young woman, is forced to live on the street after her husband abandoned her and her daughter. She has admitted her daughter, with the help of an NGO, to a residential school. Selling vegetables in K.R. Market, she makes
profit of around ₹500 a day. However, she has to spend more than ₹400 on her personal expenses.
After Eshwari, a senior citizen, lost her husband and three sons, she was kicked out of her house. She is now a ragpicker and sleeps near the metro station in the market area. Like Lalitha, Eshwari’s earnings also go towards food and pay-and-use toilet-bath facility.
According to activists working with homeless persons, nearly 22% of all homeless persons are women and 4% are children. Though the BBMP has seven shelters for homeless in the city, only one is dedicated to women. “Women are abused on the streets. The children who live in this condition, continue to live the same pattern of life and it becomes a vicious circle,” said S.S. Rajani, an activist, who also pointed out that the problems faced by women on
the street need to addressed immediately.