If words could bring warmth to the capital’s homeless in the biting winter cold, this was it. The Supreme Court Wednesday ordered the Delhi government to provide night shelters to all of them by evening, complete with food and toilets.
A bench of Justice Dalveer Bhandari and Justice K.S. Radhakrishnan also ordered the government to activate all night shelters on an emergent basis and publicise their locations through newspapers and television to ensure that the homeless can reach there.
The bench suggested that the government utilise all vacant government buildings as night shelters. It asked the government to ensure that night shelters remain equipped with all basic amenities, including blankets, food and bathrooms.
The civic authorities run 40 night shelters in Delhi. Their combined capacity cannot house even a small fraction of the capital’s estimated 150,000 homeless people even as a cold wave continues in the city. On Wednesday, the minimum temperature touched 6.6 degrees Celsius – a cruel time to be left without a roof.
The Supreme Court gave the directions on the basis of a report on the plight of the homeless in the cold submitted to it by court commissioners N.C. Saxena and Harsh Mander, indicting the Delhi government for its negligence.
Taking note of the Jan 13 report, the bench earlier in the day issued summons to Delhi’s Food Secretary Jayshree Raghuraman, asking her to appear before the court by 2 p.m.
Additional Solicitor General Mohan Parasaran, appearing on behalf of the government, told the bench he has spoken to Delhi officials on the issue.
He said the government has convened an emergent meeting to deliberate upon how to tackle the situation. He said the government would be discussing measures to activate all the night shelters and make them fully functional.
Taking a cue from the submission made by government’s law officer, the bench issued directions to the government to urgently provide shelter to the homeless.