Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Don’t beautify at cost of poor, court tells Delhi

The Delhi High Court Tuesday slammed the state government for ’spending blindly’ on the beautification drive with an eye to the Commonwealth Games in October this year, while forgetting about the city’s homeless.

‘It is an astonishing fact that you (government) are beautifying every pavement in every nook and corner of the city as if the visitors during the games would examine the whole area. You are spending blindly,’ a division bench of Chief Justice Ajit Prakash Shah and Justice Rajiv Sahai Endlaw said while hearing a case for providing night shelters for the capital’s homeless.

‘Do you think this beautification will increase your prestige in the world and for that you can throw women and children on the streets without shelter in this chilling winter?’ the bench added.

‘You talk about prosperity. Is this what you call national happiness?’ the bench asked the state counsel and sought details about how much the government is spending on the ongoing beautification drive in the capital.

According to an estimates, over one lakh people are homeless in the city.

‘The Master Plan of 2021 has the provision of 150 permanent night shelters, but it seems the government is trying to forget it and keep its focus only on the beautification,’ the bench observed while asking the government to take immediate steps to provide night shelter to the homeless.

The court directed the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) to make arrangements for the homeless near Motia Khan, where a building is lying unused for the past 12 years.

‘MCD will ensure that the building is worth living for…homeless people,’ the court said. It asked the civic agencies to convene a meeting, headed by the chief secretary of the Delhi government, and look for an immediate solution so that people don’t die on the streets due to the cold. It asked for an action taken report by Friday.

The court also asked voluntary organisations working for the homeless to make their representation before the member secretary of the Delhi Legal Services Authority (DLSA), Asha Menon, who will forward their suggestions to the government and the court.

The court also pulled up the government for stating that it does not have funds for constructing night shelters.

The court was hearing the case on the MCD pulling down a temporary night shelter Dec 22 last year as part of its beautification drive for the Commonwealth Games.

The MCD submitted that the demolition was made as people had encroached upon its land and did not vacate despite several warnings.

As the temperatures in the city dipped and biting cold set in, the move impacted the many homeless who took refuge in the shelter.

Delhi has 40 night shelters – 27 run by the MCD and 15 temporary structures run by the Delhi government – for roughly 100,000 homeless people.

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