In a large, empty hall, three men were lying around listlessly. They were regulars at the night shelter, clarified Ratan Kumar, its caretaker, not riot-affected people.

Days after 47 people were killed in communal violence in North East Delhi, the Aam Aadmi Party government released a list of nine relief camps for those displaced in the violence.

On Monday, visited three of them and found not a single violence-affected family there. Of the nine camps located in the Shahdara and Seelampur area, eight are essentially night shelters run by the government.

“Everyone knows the condition of rain baseras [night shelters],” said Kumar, the caretaker of shelter number 202, located on the Pushta Usmanpur Road in Seelampur. “These shelters do not have proper hygiene. Only those who are addicts come here.”

Kumar’s shelter has a capacity to accommodate 50 people with mattresses, blankets, one toilet and drinking water. But only three beds were occupied on Monday by those who regularly stayed there, he said.

Only one of the designated government relief camps was not a night shelter, but a community centre. Located in Shri Ram Colony, it housed 42 families that had fled violence from Shahdara’s Ghedi Mendu village, The Indian Express reported.

Social activists coordinating relief work by non-government organisations in North East Delhi said night shelters cannot be a substitute for relief camps.

Activists say relief camps should provide a range of assistance to the displaced: clothes and food, trauma, health, legal and financial services.

“The state needs to provide options to those affected because the community can only stretch itself so far,” said Suroor Mander, a lawyer who works with Karwan-e-Mohabbat, an organisation led by activist Harsh Mander, to set up a medical help centre at Al Islah Public School in New Mustafabad’s Babu Nagar. “The state needs to act like it cares.”

But on the ground, there was no sign of such care: found most displaced families were either staying at the homes of relatives and helpful strangers or in shared spaces like places of worship. Many had left the city for their villages.

Empty shelters

In the same complex as shelter number 202, which is meant for men, exists another shelter for women with 50 beds. Its caretaker, Anjum, 24, said: “Anyone can come here but no one has come so far.”

About one km ahead of Pushta Usmanpur Road was shelter number 203, which Delhi government’s list said could accommodate both men and women. But its caretaker, Shamsuddin, 45, said that it was only for men. Here too, there were no riot-affected people.

“There are 26 regulars who are daily wage workers who come here after finishing their work,” said Shamsuddin. “Apart from that no one has come.”

No help desks

As part of relief work, Delhi government is supposed to offer medical, legal and trauma services by setting up help desks for those displaced.

But no desk was visible at the shelters that visited. The caretakers said no government official had visited them over last week. “No one has come here,” said Kumar. made repeated attempts to contact Delhi government officials in charge of coordinating relief work but they did not respond to calls or texts.

A deserted night shelter in Seelampur. Photo: Vijayta Lalwani.