Heatwave: India’s homeless prefer roadside to cabins

homelessNEW DELHI: Munir Ali, 54, works all day at a construction site in Old Delhi. By 5 pm, when his shift gets over, he rushes with his colleagues to book his spot at the edge of the dusty ring road crossing the Nigam Bodh Ghat.

If he is late by a few hours, he has to spend the night inside a porta cabin that is no less than a furnace in this summer heat.

“By 9 pm, the entire road is lined with people. Though there are three shelter homes in the area, when the temperature soars, it becomes difficult to sleep inside the tin cabin. It is suffocating and it becomes extremely hot. Sleeping on the road is a much better option,” said Ali.

With the day temperatures in the Capital hitting almost 46 degree celsius this season, hundreds of homeless people across the Capital prefer sleeping on footpaths, below flyovers and bridges and in subways.

Around 112 porta homes lie empty this summer as the heat, aggravated by the metal-walled room, makes it difficult for people to stay inside.

Mukesh, another homeless man who comes to the shelter home, said that he has tried sleeping inside the shelter homes during summer but it is worse than sleeping on the roads.

“Sleeping on the roads at least ensures some respite when the cars pass by. Even the fans inside the homes become useless during peak summers,” said Mukesh.

The caretakers of the shelter homes in the area say one porta cabin can house close to 60 people. There are three such homes at a distance of less than 50m.

“During winter, it becomes difficult to accommodate people here but as summers approach, the cabins go practically empty. Nowadays, we barely house 10 to 15 people in all the three homes together. People come here but prefer to sleep out,” said Deepak Kumar from Aman Biradari, Centre for Equity Studies (CSE).

In less than a week, over 1,400 people across the country have died due to the heat wave. Construction works, beggars and elderly people constitute a majority of this number.

“During the day we have rickshaw pullers, roadside vendors and beggars who come to the home. It becomes extremely difficult to be outside in the scorching heat. The weather becomes an issue only for the poor and the homeless, not for the rich who can stay in their AC rooms,” said Kumar. – By Soumya Pillai for Hindustan Times

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