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As another winter nears, Palike fails Bengaluru’s homeless

Bengaluru needs at least 100 night shelters to cater to the homeless

BENGALURU: As another winter approaches, the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP), whose responsibility it is to provide shelters for the homeless, has left them hopeless on the streets.

As per Supreme Court directives, Bengaluru needs at least 100 night shelters to cater to the homeless — mostly migrants, including those from other districts of Karnataka — but the city has only nine. The Palike is now trying to add another eight but the tender is still stuck.

“We’ve had the tender document ready for a while. First, we had to put off floating the tender because of the byelections and now the eprocurement website has a problem, because of which we are unable to upload it,” said Nagendra Naik, welfare officer, BBMP.

Times View

Is BBMP doing an adequate job in any area of its responsibility? The fact that Bengaluru has a large number of homeless is not the Palike’s fault. But what’s terrible is that it’s so far behind in providing the infrastructure they need to survive. The reasons reek of indifference. A non-functioning website in Startup City, inaction because of byelections and a seven-day process which couldn’t have been kicked off any time in the past 730 days. Maybe the city would be
better served if BBMP handed over its budget to NGOs run by concerned citizens.

Subhash C Khuntia, former Karnataka chief secretary and chairman of the Independent Committee on Shelters for Urban Homeless had told TOI last October that BBMP would add 20 centres before December 2018. At that time,
there were only four functional centres. However, the Palike seems to have added only five.

Activists working for the rights of homeless, while reiterating that the number of existing shelters isn’t even 10% of the number the city needs, argue that waiting for the year-end to call for tenders also reflects BBMP’s apathy. BBMP special commissioner D Randeep said: “There has been a delay in getting things going but it is not because of lack of effort. BBMP is aware of the problem and has been working to put in place infrastructure for the homeless. We will soon have more shelters and then add a few more.”

Naik also said the process is not expected to take long. “It is a seven-day tender. Add about four to five days for opening of technical and financial bids and everything will be over in about 11 to 12 days. We won’t take very long,” he said.

Among the eight places shelters are expected to come up, Naik said, 70% have existing buildings and will not require much work, and in some other places, they only need to do some refurbishing. “In future, we will also look at pre-cast
” Randeep said.

Activist SS Rajani, however, argues there needs to be a concerted effort if the Palike is serious about the issue. “Many of the homeless die on the streets, especially during winter. A separate study on that will throw light on their plight, but whether or not the homeless are able to manage, it is our duty as a city to
provide them shelter.”

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