'Rescue vans for homeless seldom seen'

City shelter board has only six such vehicles, NGOs say even they remain unused

The authority that looks after shelter homes has got only six vans to rescue the homeless in the entire city.

The NGOs working for the destitutes say not only more shelter homes are needed but a proper mechanism is required to transport them to the nearest shelter.

After two homeless persons were found dead — one of the corpse had the face chewed up by rodents — in Yamuna Pusta area on Wednesday morning, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal’s assured that 45 new porta cabin shelters will be set up for the homeless across the city.

The six ‘rescue’ vehicles with the Delhi Urban Shelter Improvement Board (DUSIB) are meant to patrol from 10 pm to 4 am, but voluntary organisations say they are seldom seen on the roads.

Also, they do not have any first-aid kit. But a DUSIB official said the vans are meant for rescuing the homeless and not to give them first aid. “If a homeless is sick, he is taken to a hospital and if he is not, s/he is moved to the nearest shelter home,” he added. “The job of these vans is to make sure that no homeless dies sleeping in the open.”

The NGOs said had these vehicles been doing their job then the bodies of homeless would not be found decomposing in the open.

“We have never seen any such vehicle on the roads. I have been conducting night vigils myself but I never came across such a vehicle,” said Indu Prakash Singh, an executive committee member of the NGO, Shahri Adhikar Manch: Begharon Ke Saath.

But the director of DUSIB, Kamal Malhotra said these vans have been carrying out night patrols regularly. “These vans can’t reach every place,” Malhotra told Deccan Herald. “Sometime the areas are very shrubby. We cannot discount these things.”

We also have a tie-up with Centralised Accident and Trauma Services (CATS), he added. “If anybody calls on 102 and reports that a homeless is lying unattended on a roadside, a CATS vehicle immediately reaches the spot and does the needful,” he said.

Malhotra said the department has allocated the work of night patrolling to six Human Resource Centres (HRCs), run by non-profit organisations, which provide transportation facilities to the homeless.

“The department has given one vehicle each to the HRCs. Earlier there were only two vans. These HRCs look after the condition of the vans,” he added.

When asked what action will be taken if someone finds a homeless at day and gives a call on the helpline number, an HRC coordinator said, “The vehicles are available from 10 pm to 4 am. Even if someone calls in the day time, the homeless will be rescued at night only.”

The helpline numbers are 8130993877 and 01123378789.

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