Early onset of winters, HC asks DUSIB to inspect night shelters & take steps to improve facilities

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New Delhi, Dec 7 (PTI) The Delhi High Court Monday asked Delhi Urban Shelter Improvement Board (DUSIB) to inspect afresh the night shelters run by it and take remedial steps at the earliest for improving the facilities there in view of the early onset of winters in the national capital.

The high court was informed by Delhi State Legal Services Authority (DSLSA) that during the independent recce of the night shelters undertaken by it and on interaction with several persons who are reluctant to stay at the night shelters, certain issues were noticed, including low occupancy capacity, lack of creche facility and lack of cleanliness.

“In view of the fact that winter has set in early in Delhi this year, DUSIB is directed to take all remedial steps at the earliest and file a fresh Status Report within two weeks with a copy to counsel for DSLSA to examine the said status report and undertake fresh inspection of the night shelters run by DUSIB and file a fresh status report.

“DUSIB shall also take account of the suggestions made by the petitioner in the additional affidavit for improving the facilities available in the night shelters, as far as is possible,” a bench of Justices Hima Kohli and Subramonium Prasad said.

An affidavit filed by petitioner NGO Delhi Rozi Roti Adhikar Abhiyan (DRRAA) and status report by DSLSA, through advocate Sumer Kumar Sethi, highlighted that though large number of people are living on the streets and their condition is extremely vulnerable given the onset of the winter, the occupancy of several Delhi’s homeless shelters remains well below capacity.

The report highlighted the deficiencies in the night shelters run by DUSIB and said that in interactions with pavement dwellers, it emerged that issues such as lack of provision for storage of belongings, lack of creche or facility for leaving children while women go to work, distance of shelters, lack of cleanliness and security are the key reasons why people are forced to live on the roads.

Advocate Anuj Chaturvedi, representing DUSIB, informed the court that the work for implementing the Winter Action plan is under-way. He, however, conceded that after receiving the affidavit of NGO and the status report of the DSLSA with regard to deficiencies noticed in the night shelters, no remedial steps have been taken by the board in the past two weeks.

The court was dealing with the issue of whether there was any need to continue with the hunger relief camps, providing dry ration to the non-PDS beneficiaries and providing cooked food to those who are using night shelters run by DUSIB.

On the aspect of providing dry ration to non-PDS beneficiaries, DSLSA said a majority of the beneficiaries under the Mukhya Mantri Corona Sahayata Yojana were migrant daily wage labourers, who on resumption of rail and road transport during the phase of unlockdown, have successfully moved out of Delhi and do not require supply of dry ration.

There are other persons in Delhi who had already applied for issuance of ration cards but the same have not been issued for various reasons including absence of relevant documents, verification of documents,though they also fall under the non-PDS beneficiary category, it said.

It also recommended that considering the prevailing situation, such persons should be continued to be supplied with dry ration under the Mukhya Mantri Corona Sahayata Yojana.

Delhi government, in its status report through advocate Anuj Aggarwal, said that the provision of dry ration to families covered under the non-PDS beneficiary scheme was contemplated as a one-time relief, initiated to address the food need of the people during the nationwide lockdown and that dry ration/ food relief under the scheme of Janta Samvad Portal is still open and e-coupons are being issued to applicants online.

Senior advocate Sanjay Parikh, representing the NGO, said the Delhi Government must clarify as to whether the stand taken in the latest status report that dry ration is being provided to non-PDS beneficiaries is a one time measure as it runs contrary to the averments that the State is continuously providing ration to all those who have registered themselves on the Janta Samvad Ration Portal under the Mukhya Mantri Corona Sahayata Yojana.

The high court asked the Delhi government to file an affidavit clarifying this aspect before the next date on January 7.

The application seeking direction to the Delhi government to resume the scheme of providing dry ration under the Mukhya Mantri Corona Sahayata Yojna or any other scheme, was filed in the pending petition by the NGO challenging the decision to link ration cards with Aadhaar. PTI SKV SKV RKS RKS