An assessment of more than 15 shelter homes by the Delhi Police has found several problems ranging from poor sanitation and hygiene to no power back-ups and rude authorities, The Indian Express reported on Tuesday.
Delhi, which has more than 3,000 coronavirus cases, is among the most affected regions in India. The city-state government has converted 111 government facilities as shelter homes for migrant workers who are stranded due to the nationwide lockdown to curb the spread of Covid-19. While the 111 temporary shelter homes are housing more than 10,000 people, the 223 permanent shelter homes for the homeless in the national Capital can host around 7,000 people.
Ten Delhi Police station house officers were asked to prepare a report on the shelter homes after some police personnel found a few problems with them. The officers sent their reports to Deputy Commissioner of Police (North) Monika Bhardwaj, who then compiled it and sent it to District Magistrate (Central) Nidhi Shrivastava for necessary action on April 22. Shrivastava told the newspaper that a copy of the report was sent to “all sub-divisional magistrates to rectify the shortcomings”.
The Lahori Gate police, who surveyed three shelter homes, said there were no proper arrangements for drinking water or food. “It was found that food was being served twice a day but quality was not satisfactory,” the report said. “Therefore people roam around for better food. No gap, social distance is found between the beds/mattresses fixed for homeless persons. No arrangement for sanitisation or hand wash.”
At a shelter home in Motia Khan, where 412 people were staying, there was overcrowding and no social distancing. “It needs sanitisation and cleaning,” the Sadar Bazar Police said in their report. No basic medical facilities were available at three shelters in Timarpur, the report said. The water was not fit for drinking, the report said, adding that the migrant workers were “demanding sabzi poori instead of rice khichdi”.
In Sarai Rohilla’s shelters, the migrants want to return to their homes, while in Gulabi Bagh, they complained that their food was not reaching them on time and sought new masks. The report also suggested that ambulances and PCR vans should be stationed outside these shelter homes.
Some other problems flagged by the report include: “Fans not working and no power back-up, sanitisation of toilets rarely done, rude behaviour of civil defence staff, foul smell in toilets, water supply in the toilets only between 7 am and 11 am, one soap for bathing and no detergent for washing clothes, mosquito bites.”
Several homeless people have moved out of the shelter homes after the lockdown, leading to chaos, the report said, citing examples from areas such as the Old Delhi Railway Station and Lahori Gate.
The police in Kotwali and Kashmere Gate said there were no shortcomings in those shelter homes.
On March 24, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had announced that India was going into lockdown for three weeks in an attempt to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus. The initial result was chaos and a huge migrant exodus. On the last day of the first phase of the lockdown, Modi announced that the lockdown was going to be extended till May 3. This led to rumours about trains being arranged for migrants to go home, after which hundreds gathered at a station in Mumbai. The daily wage jobs on which migrant workers depended have dried up, leaving them with no income to buy food. Many of them are living in cramped shanties, making social distancing an impossibility.
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