Winter Shelters, Poverty, Sanitation And Cold Feet: Dealing With It All

Posted on December 3, 2010 in Society

By A M Radhika:

A newspaper clipping today told tales of the city Municipal Corporation looking to build three night shelters for the homeless in the city, owing to the infamous unexpected showers (they were bad) punching down the temperatures to a lowly 12-15 for an early stage; to be completely managed by NGOs under a new scheme. It was such a welcome change! While returning from classes a few days back enjoying my two-wheeled drive through some lush greens, I saw two women walking on either sides of the road, their steps in a very uncanny sync. One was arms in arms with a boy (who by the way looked deranged in conversation) clad in baggy jeans and a Reebok windcheater, twirling her hair (*smirks*). The other was carrying a huge chunk of overtly dry grass, was clad in only one single sari, too short, balancing the weight on her head and repeatedly pulling the unruly trails of jutting-out cloth to keep herself from the chilly wind, her teeth chattering a little. And that, had me pondering a little because the same day a third one was on the road bare feet while I almost slapped my forehead for dressing up like a refugee from the Antarctic.

The yearly routine of folks losing their lives to harsh winters should have hit home big time by now. Especially in the Northern regions of the country where the winter plays Federer against you, where the innate lack of basic resources (food, water and clothes etc) is all-prevailing, helping the challenged slum/roadside dwellers in survival is called for. With news channels raising questions on why in NCR, particularly speaking, a huge chunk of Khel Gaon remains underutilized (or needlessly occupied) when people could have easily been housed there so at least some lives could be protected, some diseases prevented. Analogous to the night shelters, baraat ghars, multipurpose halls and other such bodies (even some educational institutions for the nights if need be) having a hall-like setup, could play Good Samaritan. People have just begun resorting to flyover bases and parking entrances as ad-hoc shelters. They are trying hard to keep themselves warm and fairly well to go to work the next day.

Dengue, swine flu, pneumonia and all other ‘Atithi’ are beginning to show their wrath. Helplines associated with immediate medical aid are soon to be. Will that be enough? They say the shelters open only in December, which essentially ignores the idea of early winters, unexpected cloudbursts garnished with hail and wind blowing like it just got out of jail (uh-oh). With unforeseen climatic changes and rain in even semi-arid regions, only a little quicker and stronger execution of the already existing processes of chambering would result in a steep tunnel drop of unnecessary mortality and number of sick patients as well. Moreover killing two vultures with one arrow, during their stay in those night shelters, it could be arranged for people to learn about Health, Sanitation or possibly sessions could be arranged for some motivational talks. Tell them ‘aal izz well’.

Crops are of course, the worst affected department of common man’s concerns in these aberrant rains pin-pointedly and locally speaking. But overall, vegetable prices are to proportionate the temperature and cool down with all the winter varieties planting their vibrant-colored selves in the markets. Yay. How shall things move once the actual December winter sets in; how many die, how many survive is for all of us to see, probably only in the papers as yet. Till then, we can just go on about choosing bright sweaters, buying high end moisturizers for our ‘sensitive’ skins, plan our winter vacation and snuggle in those warm quilts.

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