Jackets, bobble hats and gloves are out of the wardrobe, but not everyone has warm clothes to keep them nice and snug this winter season.
Delhi gets cold at winter time. Surprisingly cold.
Night time temperatures drop to five degrees and during the day it barely touches 20 degrees.
That might sound warm, but the nights are long and the daytime peak is short. Add in a winter wind chill from the Himalayan range and you get the picture.It’s a particularly tough time for Delhi’s homeless and Jhuggi dwellers.
In response night shelters have opened up to cater for the homeless.
The Delhi Urban Shelter Improvement Board has provided 200, equipped with bedding, drinking water, medical help and toilets.
It’s estimated that 21,000 people can be accommodated in shelters (figures taken from the Indian Express, 5th December).
A numbers game with people at its heart
The number of homeless in the city isn’t easy to ascertain.
A Delhi Government survey in 2010 reported 59,955 homeless, whilst the 2011 census said the number was 46,724. The Supreme Court Commissioner’s Office claimed the number was 246,800 in 2011, whilst the NGO’s estimate the number at around 250,000 (figures taken from the Indian Express, December 5th 2016).
Whatever the number the cities night shelters don’t have the capacity to service all the homeless and those in need.
Learn what street living is really like
Delhi’s homeless communities were the focus of a award winning film, Cities of Sleep, by documentary film maker Shaunak Sen. It’s a film thay has captivated audiences in India and internationally.
In Cities of Sleep, Sen explores a world where just being able to secure a good night’s sleep is a matter of life and death. He follows the lives of two individuals, Shakeel, a street sleeper and Ranjeet, a sleep provider and community entrepreneur.
Shakeel, who has slept rough in Old Delhi for the past seven years, shares how he searches for safe, secure and warm places to sleep in winter.
He introduces Sen to the ‘Sleep Mafia’, men that take over vacated market areas and rent out floor space, cots and blankets for between 20INR and 50 INR a night. If you know Old Delhi you’ll recognise many of the places where the sleep mafia make their beds for rent.
Away from the crowded streets of Old Delhi, Sen meets Ranjeet, who runs a sleep cinema on the backs of the Yumana. At Loha Pul, around 400 homeless come to sleep and watch films for a nominal fee in a shanty cinema. But as the monsoon rains arrive and the river rises, a place of rest for many of Delhi’s migratory homeless is at risk of flooding.
Interested in Sen and the film, then find out more about screenings on Facebook.
Making a difference this winter
The Indian Express reports that 3,750 homeless people died in the city between Oct 2015 and December 2016.
Chief Minister, Arvind Kejrival, is encouraging Dilliwalahs to help the homeless find night shelters and donate warm clothing directly to the shelters, rather than gift items to those on the streets.
He hopes this will encourage the homeless to head to the night shelters and take advantage of the other services that are being laid on.
Other social enterprises are spearheading their own campaigns to help out the poor. Respected NGO, ASHA, is campaigning under the #sharethewarmth hashtag.
Asha says over 100 slum dwellers lost their lives to the cold in 2016. If you’d like to know more about the campaign and what you can do to help, contact Asha.
A cup of tea and a warm meal won’t go amiss either. It’s tough on the streets of Delhi at any time of the year, but in winter it must be really, really hard.