As icy winds and cold conditions swept Delhi this winter, authorities in the national capital failed to persuade more than 1,100 homeless people to temporarily move to night shelters, according to official data. The Delhi government has been informed that roughly 1,167 people scattered across the city have rejected repeated attempts by rescue teams to place them in night shelters. The Delhi Urban Shelter Improvement Board (DUSIB), which deploys the rescue teams, has written to the city government's revenue department apprising it of the situation. The reluctance shown by the homeless people to shift to night shelters stems from a set of reasons such as unhygienic conditions, fear of theft, lack of space, and brawls involving junkies. "It has been reported by the rescue teams that about 1,167 persons found in different parts of Delhi during rescue operations were reluctant or refused to shift to the nearby night shelters," DUSIB member (engineering) M K Tyagi wrote in a letter to the revenue secretary last month. The letter mentioned that in addition to the above, 30 families displaced from the Kathputli Colony JJ camp have been spotted on pavements under the Shadipur flyover in west Delhi. "They are displaced persons of the Kathputli Colony J J camp, which has been recently demolished by the Delhi Development Authority," Tyagi wrote. The largest concentration of such homeless people, not willing to move to shelters, are in areas such as the Kashmere Gate ISBT, Hanuman Mandir in Connaught Place and AIIMS. According to a list attached to the letter, the numbers are: 200 near the ISBT, 200 near AIIMS, 150 in Safdarjung, 50 near Gurdwara Bangla Sahib and 20 near Hanuman Mandir. Last week, the plight of the homeless had emerged as yet another flashpoint between Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and Lt Governor Anil Baijal after Kejriwal accused Baijal of putting a "useless officer" in-charge of the DUSIB. Kejriwal had targeted DUSIB CEO Shurbir Singh after a section of the media, quoting an NGO working in this area, claimed that there have been as many as 44 homeless deaths in January so far. Singh had categorically rejected the reports claiming there are multiple factors behind the deaths of the homeless and it cannot be associated with cold. Currently, DUSIB's 261 night shelters, run through NGOs on contract basis, have a capacity to house 20,934 people.
Singh claimed the peak occupancy during nights this winter season has been 13,810. Of the 261 shelters, 83 are concrete structures, 115 are porta cabins, while the rest, save one, are tents. Every night, a subway near AIIMS is thrown open for the families of outstation patients thronging the premier hospital to take shelter.
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