With the increasing number of homeless laborers and workers, the city falls short in providing shelter homes to them while the nation fights the COVID-19 outbreak.
By Batchu Rushali
Each year the number of workers and labourers coming to Bangalore for work from different parts of Karnataka keeps increasing. The trouble is when the workers are homeless and have no place to stay because of a lack of shelter homes.
Narasimhappa T.V., a researcher who works for the homeless and urban homeless shelters in Bangalore said, “The statistics by the National Urban Livelihoods Mission shows that in Bangalore Urban, only nine shelter homes are currently running in the city. The Supreme Court guidelines state that at least one shelter home per one lakh population is a necessity, and based on this guideline, Bangalore must have at least 100 shelter homes. Around six months back, there were just six shelter homes for the homeless and after constant pressure on the government, the number has increased to nine.”
He believes that,each shelter home has the total population ranging from 40 to 100 at present.
The Karnataka Government issued a notice for opening shelter homes for migrant or construction workers, homeless, destitute and those stranded on streets due to COVID-19 lockout (mention when).
The Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) is responsible for the maintenance of shelter homes in Bengaluru. In a bid to deal with the pandemic, BBMP set up five more temporary shelter homes in government schools along with the nine already owned by BBMP. They were added to deal with the paucity of shelter homes in the city and maintain social distance among people living there.
Laxmi, a manager of a shelter home in Goodshed Road of Bangalore says, people living in the shelter home are given basic facilities like food and sanitation. Health camps are organised and awareness is created about social distancing.
She said, “Currently, there are 28 people living in this shelter home. Several new people come here to seek shelter every day but they are guided to other shelter homes because it is necessary to maintain social distancing now.”
Ms. Ramamani from the BBMP Welfare Department said, “We have identified several schools where we have organised shelter homes. In fact, we have reduced the number of people living in old shelter homes and transferred a few of them in new ones to follow social distancing in each of them.”
She added, “The Urban Development Department has also asked the Social Welfare department and Minorities and Backward class department to share their student’s hostel. With this, there are around 100 hostels with 9,000 bedding facilities with maintenance of sanitation and hygiene. The Joint Commissioners of BBMP from different zones have been given a list of shelter less people so they can allot them shelter homes. To deal with the lack of shelter homes, we have identified more places for accommodation.”
S.S. Rajani, an activist and a member of the committee that conducted a survey on homeless people said, “The problem is people are still on the streets. We have more than 5,000 people on the streets as per our survey data. Despite the Supreme Court’s guidelines, we just have nine shelter homes in Bangalore. Up to 2014, we had 12 shelters and later it came down to six and now we have nine while another five are under construction.”
The activist asserted that they have been fighting the government for more shelter homes.
She added, “Many people were dumped into the existing nine shelters after we advocated for opening more shelters in different areas in Bangalore because it is important to maintain social distance amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. There are a few shelters which have around 100 people in it.”
The shelter homes are the only resort for the homeless, be it migrant workers who are stranded in this pandemic or daily wage labourers who don’t have a place to stay.
Mr. Narasimhappa added, “Though the government said that they will come up with 20 shelter homes by March this year in Bangalore Urban, there is no sign of them yet. After every meeting, they say that they will come up with more shelters within the next 3 months but it has been delayed for so long now. That’s how pathetic the situation is.”
Rajani believes that the city is not aware of the shelter homes and for now the government has not initiated any kind of awareness program. She said, “Lack of shelter homes and lack of information is the problem. The welfare department under the BBMP also has beggar homes but street side beggars are vary of government vans arriving for them because they fear being imprisoned.”
Image Credits: Narsimhappa T.V.