Winters can be life threatening for the homeless in Delhi.
On January 6, 2018, my classmates and I visited AIIMS to see for ourselves how the poor patients, who travel from all over India to AIIMS for treatment, managed accommodation, especially if the treatment was to be spread over many days or weeks.
I went there and talked to a couple who had come from Gram Devri, which is in the Dindori district of Madhya Pradesh. Twenty-nine-year-old Gheriya Bai had a problem with her lungs, and she, along with her husband Om Prashad Thakur, were sitting outside AIIMS when I met them. They were agricultural labourers and had a low income. As the treatment involved them staying in Delhi for 15 days, they decided to park themselves outside the hospital.
Gheriya Bai had a vomiting bout and when they showed her to a doctor in a Madhya Pradesh hospital, she was referred to AIIMS as the hospital there did not have competent doctors or the necessary hospital facilities.
The couple informed me about the Rain Basera outside AIIMS, where they were staying during the course of her treatment.
These shelters have been set up by the Delhi Urban Shelter Improvement Board (DUSIB), an agency of the Delhi government, for the convenience of patients. There are four such shelters outside the twin hospitals of AIIMS and Safdarjung, catering to about 1,000-odd people. The Delhi government has also launched an application on smartphones. Ordinary citizens of Delhi can use the application to have homeless people received by the mobile vans of DUSIB.
When I spoke to the people from the NGO Prerana, the ones who were overseeing the arrangement at Rain Basera, I was informed about the facilities available at the shelter. The people are provided a mattress and a blanket after depositing their Aadhaar cards or on showing their OPD slips. In addition to this, the shelter inmates are provided with biscuits and tea in the morning.
There is a provision of washrooms nearby, though I wondered if the number of toilets provided were sufficient, considering the number of people in the shelters.
We did come across a couple of people who complained against the shelter’s staff and how they had not been allowed to stay inside the shelter. We were told there is a feedback mechanism and a grievance handling system. A supervisor from the NGO also told us how people from the neighbourhood come and sit outside the shelter so that they can provide aid to the homeless with the help of various community organisations.