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Prod for night shelters to protect poor

State adviser to Supreme Court commissioner on social security schemes Balram has urged civic bodies of the state to make proper arrangements of night shelters for the homeless and poor during winter so that nobody dies of cold.

Balram, while holding a meeting with civic authorities on providing shelters to the urban poor in the wintry weather on Friday, also asked the officials to construct raen baseras or night shelters at strategic locations.

“According to a Supreme Court directive, every city with a population of more than five lakh should have raen baseras for the urban poor — one shelter for every one lakh population. However, barring Ranchi, no other city has permanent night shelters in Jharkhand,” Balram said.

Representatives of different civic bodies of major cities and towns like Ranchi, Jamshedpur, Dhanbad, Bokaro and Chas attended the meeting. Ranchi Municipal Corporation was represented by mayor Rama Khalkho, deputy mayor Ajay Nath Shahdeo and chief executive officer Dipankar Panda among others.

The apex court has appointed commissioners to ensure that all states adhere to Article 21 of the Constitution (right to life). As shelter is a basic requirement, the apex court in 2010 had directed governments of respective states to set up night shelters, which will remain open 24X7 all 365 days a year. Besides, each home should have space to accommodate 100 people.

Ranchi has 11 raen baseras while other cities are managing with temporary shelters — usually community halls converted into accommodation facilities.

Speaking to The Telegraph, Panda said the civic body wanted to set up more raen baseras in and around the city as poor people could be still spotted sleeping on pavements. “We want to set up raen baseras at places like Birsa Bus Stand, Ranchi railway station as well as in HEC area. We are scouting for land at these locations,” informed Panda.

The existing night shelters in the state capital are located at Madhukam-Khadgarha, Pahadi Mandir, Bakri Bazar, Jagarnathpur, Dhurwa Bus Stand, AG More, near Ranchi Institute of Medical Sciences, Karamtoli Chowk, Karbala Chowk and near Seva Sadan Hospital.

Balram also asked officials of civic bodies to spread the word about night shelters among the poor so that they can avail of the facility.

“Many poor people dwelling on the pavements don’t even know that something like raen basera exists. As a result, they continue to pass the night, shivering in the cold, on pavements. The civic bodies ought to do more to advertise about these facilities,” said Barlam.

The adviser further said a team would go around the raen baseras on Saturday and review the existing facilities in them.

“In the next few days, similar visits will be undertaken at night shelters existing in other towns,” he added.

The raen baseras in Ranchi boast beds with proper cover, drinking water facility and toilets. Each night halt can accommodate about 30 people. However, most of them lie unoccupied.

Stay is free at the raen baseras though the civic body may decide to collect a nominal charge of around Rs 5 for a night stay. Ranchi mayor Khalkho, however, said that they did not charge any free.