Homeless many, shelters few

People sleeping on pavements is something that should have worried the City’s municipal agencies. It had not.

They had to be woken up by the Supreme Court about two-and-a-half years ago. Have they woken up to the cries of the homeless? Can the provisions under Article 21 of the Constitution emerge from the heavy pages they are buried in?

“The problem is more complex than you perceive it to be,” a joint commissioners of BBMP, the agency responsible for providing shelter to the homeless, said.

Not only has the Palike been lagging behind in providing shelters, but it is also found that the five operational shelters are also not in ideal locations. Having taken this point, the Advisor to the Commissioners of the Supreme Court, Clifton Rozario, has submitted a report to the effect of an action plan.

To effectively implement the project, the Palike has been advised to first conduct surveys to determine the areas of high homeless concentration. Then, it can conduct a round of interviews with the local NGOs working in the area of homeless in the City.

“Once the list is compiled, the City should be divided into smaller regions in line with the administrative set-up for easy co-ordination with the government at later stages,” Clifton said.

It would be useful first to constitute survey teams - about 15 for Bangalore -plus an attached data entry and analysis team with each teams consisting around four persons each for the survey, a combination of state and local government officials, NGO representatives, homeless youth volunteers, and student and youth volunteers.

The role of the teams would be to identify groups of homeless persons in numbers of 25 or more so as to justify building a shelter. These will be mapped on the City map which they carry. As far as possible, they will hold group discussions with larger clusters of homeless persons.

“Once the survey locations with high homeless concentrations have been identified, the teams must identify the areas with high concentration of homeless and categorise them into large, medium and small. Profiling the populations in these concentrations in terms of gender, earning, including occupational categories, is also essential,” the report said.

Palike officials said they were in the process of implementing many of the committee’s recommendations and that the City’s homeless would soon see a series of shelters coming up.

A joint inspection committee (JIC) set up by the Supreme Court, comprising Clifton Rozario, Rajani, Kshitij Urs, K Venkatesh, Lakshpathi and Veeraiah, found that the shelters constructed by the Palike were not in the vicinity of the areas inhabited by the homeless.

The committee, which has submitted a set of guidelines to the Palike, has identified many such areas in the City that need immediate attention. The Palike currently has set up only five shelters accommodating about 200 of the close to 18,000 recognised homeless and lakhs of the others in the City.

Clifton said: “The BBMP had to provide such facilities even under the Karnataka Municipal Corporation Act. They did not do that and even after the Supreme Court direction, there seems to be a general apathy towards the problem which is hard to digest.”

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