Mumbai: BMC plans 150 night shelters, activists say 575 are needed

Activists say very little is provided for the city’s homeless in the recent DP

Mumbai has more than 57,000 people living on the streets. Now, as per the new plans, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) will be building 150 night shelters, each with a capacity to accommodate 100 people at a time, for the homeless.

However, people working towards rehabilitation of street dwellers, claim that there is a need for at least 575 night shelters in Mumbai, according to the census of 2011. They say that very little is provided for the city’s homeless in the recent draft Development Plan (DP) of the BMC.

Though the issue was brought to the BMC’s notice by NGOs working for homeless people, they say the civic body chose to ignore the facts, and allocated space for only 150 night shelters.

Currently, only nine night shelters are operating in the city, which activists say are very few compared to the need. Homeless Collective, a group of NGOs and activists fighting for homeless people living in Mumbai, has raised their voice against the civic body and state government’s inappropriate action.

‘Insufficient’
A member of Homeless Collective, Brijesh Arya said, “According to the census in 2011, there are 57,416 homeless people living in the city.

According to the Supreme Court’s order, there should be one night shelter per one lakh people, with a capacity to accommodate 100 people with basic amenities. Following the order, there should be 575 night shelters in the coming years.”

He further added, “During the preparation of the DP, we attended several workshops in wards and clearly mentioned this fact. Despite this, BMC’s DP has not included the much-needed night shelters. Now, we will raise this issue again. We will also meet Municipal Commissioner Sitaram Kunte and political leaders to discuss the issue.”

When asked about this, a senior officer from the DP department said, “We will have to check the facts. I will not be able to comment on this right now.” “Mumbai has Tata Hospital and KEM Hospital. Many people come to Mumbai to avail of treatment at these hospitals.

Their relatives are forced to stay outside the hospitals because they can’t afford the steep rents and there is no provision for relatives to stay at night at these hospitals. Night shelters can be beneficial for such people,” Arya said.

BMC speak
However, defending the provision of 150 night shelters, Municipal Commissioner Sitaram Kunte said, “We will make provision for more night shelters when the requirement increases. BMC has submitted an affidavit in the Supreme Court about the issue and will surely address the problem when the need for more shelter homes will arise.”

Apex court order
To reduce the marginality and vulnerability of people on the grounds of homelessness, the Supreme Court gave an order on February 10, 2010, mandating that all state government and Urban Local Bodies in cities having a population of more than 5 lakh, have one 24-hour homeless shelter with a capacity of 100 persons, per one lakh of the population. These shelters are required to have basic amenities like mattress, bed rolls, blankets, potable drinking water, functional latrines, etc.

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