'551 homeless succumb to blistering heat wave'

With the city reeling under scorching heat, the homeless have been falling prey to the intense weather conditions. Since April, over 500 unidentified bodies have been found across the capital, a bulk of which succumbed to the blistering heat wave, a non-profit organisation said.

According to the figures complied by the Centre for Holistic Development, 551 unidentified bodies have been found across 12 police districts in Delhi from April 1 to June 7.

While the north district tops the list with 120 unidentified bodies, crime and railway district follows with 110 bodies.

Police said it is impossible to ascertain how many homeless die in any season, be it winter or summer.

“It is difficult to confirm the identity of all the unidentified bodies. Only 50 per cent of them can be identified, of which only 10 to 20 per cent bodies are of destitutes,” Deputy Commissioner of Police (Railways) Sanjay Bhatia said. “The rest of the bodies are of accident victims and suicide cases.”

But NGOs working for the homeless said that 80 per cent of the unidentified bodies are of the homeless. “There isn’t a season when the homeless don’t die,” said Indu Prakash Singh, Executive Committee Member, Shahri Adhikar Manch: Begharon Ke Saath.

Even the Delhi Urban Shelter Improvement Board (DUSIB), a city government’s body that looks after shelter homes, said that destitutes die throughout the year. “Almost 100 to 200 homeless die every month across the city,” a senior DUSIB official said.

NGOs blame the DUSIB for these deaths. “The death of a homeless person is a testimony that bears out utter neglect, huge arrogance and absolute callousness of the DUSIB’s bureaucrats,” Singh said.

The DUSIB said that occupancy in shelter homes declines in summer. “The shelter homes get extremely hot, so destitutes do not sleep there. Rather, they prefer sleeping out in the open,” the official said.

According to the Centre for Holistic Development, a total of 1,012 unidentified bodies have been found across the city from January 24, 2014 to June 7. As many as 835 unidentified bodies were found last year from April 1 to June 30.

The NGO said that DUSIB CEO Amar Nath told the Delhi High Court on November 27, 2013 tha t he would be responsible for any homeless person’s death. “Yet the destitutes continue to die. Is anyone accountable for these deaths? Has anyone been sent to jail?” Singh said.

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