BBMP helpline unaware of its own night shelters

A night shelter can act as a home for all kinds of homeless including people with special needs. But night shelters in Bengaluru are occupied mostly by migrant labourers. The system ensures that not many people come to know about these shelters.

A few rickshaw drivers in the auto stand on Mohankumar Nagar Main Road point towards a shelter for homeless children in Pampa Nagar, when asked where the night shelter in Yeshwanthpur is. No one in the locality of Mohankumar Nagar seems to know that there is a night shelter for the homeless in their area.

This is not without reason. After asking around and finally spotting 3rd cross road on Google maps, we manage to find a nondescript building that has ‘16, 3rd cross, Mohankumar Nagar’ written on it, but there is no mention of it being a shelter for homeless on the board.

A writing on the wall gives the address of the night shelter in Yeshwanthpur area, but there are no indications that it is a night shelter. Pic: Shree D N

Presence of bunker beds past the half-down shutters confirms it might indeed be the night shelter we were looking for.

Half the bunker beds in the night shelter seem unoccupied. Pic: Shree D N

This night shelter hosts daily wage labourers just like other shelters. There are 14 bunkers, kurlon beds for some of them, fans in the room, borewell water facility, a dirty toilet, a TV, a bench that can be considered a sofa for this shelter and big boxes with locker in this shelter. Supervisor who was nonexistent when we visited has a special ‘room’ for him.

The inmates say they don’t have to pay for the accommodation service and food. “Food is served from a hotel,” says an inmate, Mohan, who hails from Raichur.

Occupants of the night shelter in Yashwanthpur cook for themselves and watch TV. Most of them are migrant labourers. Pic: Shree D N

However, we spot a man cooking inside the shelter. Why is he cooking if food is served? “He doesn’t like hotel food, that’s why,” is the answer we get.

We are told there are around 20 inmates in the shelter, though we spot only five people at 9 pm. The night shelter in Yeshwanthpur looks like one of the good ones among the night shelters, however it doesn’t have a place for homeless women. We ask how the inmates got to know about the shelter, and there is no clear answer by anyone. A man who looks like a rickshaw driver keeps a sharp eye on us all the while we were in.

What are the guidelines on night shelters?

NULM guidelines for night shelters

National Urban Livelihood Mission (NULM) operational guidelines issued in December 2013 speaks about establishing all-weather shelters for the urban homeless in cities and towns with over 1 lakh population. For every 1 lakh urban population, provisions should be made for permanent community shelters that can accommodate minimum of 100 persons.

The guidelines underline the need for establishing separate shelters for men, women, families and special shelters for mentally challenged persons and their families. They make it mandatory to provide  ventilated rooms, water arrangements, bathing and toilet facilities, standard lighting, fire protection measures, first aid kit, regular cleaning of blankets, mattresses, common kitchen/ cooking space, facilitation for convergence with other government services (obtaining ID proof, EPIC etc).

The NULM guidelines also describe in length about the location, design, operation and maintenance of shelters. Accordingly, Municipal Corporation is required to identify land for constructing permanent shelters and submit proposal to the nodal agency (Directorate of Municipal Administration in Karnataka). If the project proposal is approved, fund is sanctioned to the city corporation. Under NULM, 75 per cent of the funds is released by the Centre and 25 per cent by the State.

Operational guidelines for night shelters by Karnataka govt

In the wake of repeated orders by the Supreme Court, the Karnataka government too framed Operational Guidelines for shelters for urban homeless with effect from May 29th, 2014. Most of the aspects in the guidelines are in tune with the Operational Guidelines for Urban Homeless under NULM. In the guidelines, the State government has made Directorate of Municipal Administration (DMA) as the nodal agency for implementing the project in the State.

It also mandates the constitution of a state level committee chaired by the Chief Secretary to supervise and monitor urban homeless programmes. The guideline also specifies the formation of shelter management committee for each shelter.

Guidelines not complied with

So how do the needy know there is a night shelter that operates? There is no clear answer to this question by anyone. Though the guidelines mandate putting it on the display, many night shelters don’t follow the rule. A survey of six shelters conducted by Members of the Homeless Survey Team in March reveals the same.

The survey also states that the condition of night shelters have not improved in last three years. “The observations and recommendations made in 2012 and 2014 reports are reiterated,” the survey report says.

Despite all the guidelines in place, the condition of existing shelters in BBMP limits has worsened, let alone establishing new shelters. Of the 13 night shelters, three have been shut down and the condition of 10 shelters is worse. The night shelters which were opened temporarily to abide by the Supreme Court directions continue to operate on a temporary basis in community halls and BBMP buildings.

The report points out at the lack of basic facilities provided at the shelters. Of the six night shelters, only one shelter in Murphy Town has separate accommodation facility for women. However, this is not fully occupied, though there are homeless women in the city roaming on the roads.

The report also observes the delay on the part of BBMP authorities in constructing additional shelters for homeless, non-spending of budgetary allocation, lack of basic facilities, non-payment to NGOs etc. Even though the guidelines make it mandatory to establish 24X7 shelters, the same is not complied with.

A copy of the report was submitted to the BBMP Commissioner, Chief Secretary, UD Secretary and others in April 2015.

No recent survey on number of homeless

Though the guidelines mandate a survey of the homeless every year, no survey has been conducted in Bengaluru in last two years. Information available at the office of the Welfare section in BBMP shows that the last survey was conducted in 2013. The official survey puts the total number of homeless in BBMP limits at 1,218 including 950 men and 268 women.

However, the civic representatives do not agree with this statistics. Convenor of Civil Society Forum for City Makers Rajani Srikakulam says that a survey conducted by a network of 29 NGOs in 2010 had identified 17,141 homeless people in BBMP. In contrast, a survey conducted by the BBMP during the same time had identified only 2,858 homeless people. “We know how accurately BBMP conducts the survey,” she quips.

Interestingly, even the Operational Guidelines for urban homeless by the State government too acknowledges the survey conducted by the NGOs and puts the number at 17,141. Even if the BBMP’s survey is taken into consideration, 10 shelters with average accommodation capacity of 25 persons each, can not admit more than 250 people. That is, the current shelters can accommodate not even 25 per cent of the homeless in Bengaluru.

Not enough night shelters in Bengaluru

The city which is supposed to have at least 84 night shelters going by the population criteria of one night shelter for every 1 lakh population (Bengaluru’s population is 84.40 lakh), has just 10 functional night shelters. A look into the statistics and the condition of existing night shelters shows Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP)’s inertia regarding arrangements for homeless and destitute.

There were no night shelters in BBMP limits till 2011. As many as 13 night shelters were established after the Supreme Court directed State governments to start shelters for homeless in cities.

It all started with a Public Interest Litigation (W.P. 196/2001) filed by People’s Union of Civil Liberties (PUCL) in 2001 about lack of shelter facility for the homeless in Delhi. During the course of hearing, the Supreme Court appointed a Commissioner and a Special Commissioner to look into the status of shelters across India.

The Chief Secretary of Karnataka then filed an affidavit before the Supreme Court, promising to establish shelters that can accommodate about 100 people for every one lakh population. In the affidavit, the State also promised to provide basic amenities in these shelters and to make magisterial enquiry in case of death of homeless.

In a short period, 13 temporary night shelters were established in BBMP limits, along with other seven municipal corporations of Karnataka. Operation and maintenance of these night shelters were outsourced to NGOs. The shelters were actively functioning when the Supreme Court was continuously monitoring them. The Central government around the same time included a component “Scheme of Shelters for Urban Homeless,” under the National Urban Livelihood Mission (NULM).

BBMP submits no proposals under NULM

Despite having the eligibility to seek grants under NULM, the BBMP has evidently not shown interest towards the same. Under NULM’s Shelter for Urban homeless projects, funds can be sanctioned to the municipal corporation for two purposes—for construction of new shelters and for operation and maintenance of existing shelters. The Central government has released Rs 63.46 crore to the State under NULM, of which Rs 50.30 crore is deposited to the Directorate of Municipal Administration.

According to sources, in the year 2014-15, DMA has received 19 proposals from various corporations for construction of new shelters and for operation and maintenance. But, the BBMP has not submitted even a single proposal so far. It was the sole responsibility of BBMP to set aside funds for running night shelters till 2014. With the introduction of NULM, municipal corporations, including BBMP can avail funds for shelters under the Central government scheme. Yet, the BBMP has not made any efforts to utilise the funds, rather it is delaying the payment to NGOs that run the existing shelters.

State Advisor to the Commissioners of the Supreme Court, Clifton Rozario blamed the State government and the BBMP for not complying with the Supreme Court orders and the guidelines. “We have been insisting the government and BBMP to abide by the orders. We have even conducted surveys and identified suitable locations for establishing new shelters and submitted the reports to the authorities. But nothing has happened so far,” he said.

No permanent shelters in the pipeline

When Citizen Matters asked BBMP’s Additional Commissioner for Welfare N V Prasad about the reason for the delay in submitting proposals, he said that it was due to “election code of conduct.” “I have directed the zonal commissioners to survey and identify locations for starting new shelters. We want to start 10-12 shelters in Dasarahalli, Yelahanka, Bommanahalli and Mahadevapura zones. We will submit the proposal to the DMA as soon as we get reports from zonal commissioners,” he said.

Shelters will be established based on the requirement of the area. “Posh areas like Sadashivanagar may not require a shelter for homeless. Therefore, we cannot start shelters with population as the sole criteria,” he added.

Another officer from the BBMP social welfare department, who didn’t want to be named said that BBMP had no plans to construct new shelters, but it will only start shelters on temporary basis. “New shelters too will be run by NGOs,” the officer said.

Surprisingly, BBMP Commissioner Kumar Naik said he was unaware of the plight of night shelters.

It is interesting to note that the report on the status of night shelters in BBMP limits conducted by Members of the Homeless Survey Team was submitted to the Palike Commissioner in April.

Who are considered homeless?

According to the State government policy for the urban homeless, following are defined as homeless:

  • Do not have a home either self-owned or rented
  • Spend their nights sleeping in the place of work such as shops, factories, construction sites
  • Spend their nights in/on their means of livelihood such as hand/ push carts, rickshaw etc
  • Live and sleep at pavements, parks, railway stations etc
  • Spend their nights and days at shelters, transit homes, short stay homes, beggars homes, children’s homes
  • Live in temporary structures without walls, under plastic sheets or thatch roofs on pavements, parks, nallah beds and other common spaces

How do I guide a homeless person to a shelter?

A call to the BBMP control room (080-22221188) and the helpline (080-22226666) did not yield any extra information on night shelters or any guidance. In fact both the control room and the helpline seemed unaware of the existence of night shelters. While the helpline is mandatory for homeless in a city like Bengaluru, BBMP helplines are helpess in helping those who need information or addresses of the night shelters.

All that you can do for a homeless person is to help him find the nearest shelter. On visiting the shelter, the person has to fill the registry and can take shelter. We have compiled the list of operational night shelters and the contact numbers of respective BBMP zones.

Who runs the night shelters?

Here is the list of night shelters and the agencies that run them.

Night shelter Address NGO
1. Murphy Town Corporation building, Murphy Town – 22975803 (East zone) Sparsha Trust, Hebbal
2. Rajaji Nagar Sri Rama Mandira, Behind Rajaji Nagar Maternity Hospital – 23463366 (West zone) Centre for Urban and Rural Development Society
3. Goods Shed Road BBMP building, Goods Shed Road, Gandhi Nagar – 23463366 (West zone) Centre for Urban and Rural Development Society
4. J C Road BBMP building, J C Road – 26566362-(South zone) BBMP
5. Jambu Savari Dinne Community hall, Jambusavari Dinne – 26566362 (South zone) Surbahi Foundation Trust
6. Hoodi Community hall, Near Anganwadi centre, Hoodi Ambedkar – 28512300  (Mahadevpura) Vidyaranya Education Trust
7. Yelahanka New Town Community hall, Yelahanka New Town – 22975936 (Yelahanka) Gilgal Charitable Trust
8. Chokkasandra Chokkasandra, T Dasarahalli – 28394909 (Dasarahalli) Parivarthana Rural Development and Women Welfare Institute
9. Sanjay Gandhi Nagar Office of Assistant EE, Sanjay Gandhi Nagar Parivarthana Rural Development and Women Welfare Institute
10. Yeshwanatapura 3rd Cross, Mohan Kumar Nagar, Yeshwanthpur – 28600954 (Rajrajeshwari Nagar) Silicon International

Do the homeless have to pay for accommodation in the shelters?

No. The homeless need not pay for the facilities. Accommodation is provided free of cost. However, in the absence of a monitoring mechanism, there are chances of caretakers collecting money from the occupants, just like how allegedly money was collected at JC Road shelter, as described in our previous article. Food too, if provided, is free of cost. Government pays for this food.

Do the night shelters take old and infirm, and those who need treatment?

As per policy, at least a third of night shelters should be devoted to homeless people with special needs. Night shelters cannot refuse to admitting old and infirm. However, in reality, there is no separate facility to them and there are no special outreach efforts by the governments.

Many night shelters do not have the facility of mandatory doctor’s visits. So one cannot say a sick person admitted to a night shelter will get the necessary help, under existing conditions.

What can be done if a shelter for homeless is not working as it should? Where to complain?

It is BBMP’s responsibility to ensure that the shelters work the way they should be. If you find a shelter not functioning up to the mark, you can complain to the Joint Commissioner of the zone or to the BBMP Commissioner.

-With inputs from Shree D N

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