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Night shelter plan on anvil

- Pavement dwellers feel chill

N. Saravana Kumar is trying to do an Arvind Kejriwal.

Taking a leaf out of Kejriwal’s book of ideas, Kumar, the Patna district magistrate, said the administration was thinking of offering shelter in old and abandoned vehicles to thousands of homeless this season when the temperature is hovering around 10 degrees Celsius.

Kejriwal’s nascent government in Delhi had already made provisions for pavement dwellers to take shelter in abandoned buses modified to suit the purpose in the chilly nights of the national capital.

“This idea is novel and the district administration will definitely give a serious thought over it. The abandoned vehicles can be modified a bit and changed into night shelters for the poor. The administration and Patna Municipal Corporation have started offering blankets to the pavement dwellers here. Till now, more than 900 people have been distributed blankets and arrangements for bonfires are also there,” Kumar said.

According to a moderate estimate, the floating population of Patna is more than half a million. Patna, being the only city in the state, has an enormous influx from other districts of labourers, rickshaw and cart pullers, autorickshaw drivers, hotel helpers among others.

Sources in the district administration said the idea had been accepted and a meeting would be held soon.

“This will not be just for the winter. In Patna, many live by the roads and they suffer during this season particularly. The chill has suddenly increased over the past few days and the administration has taken necessary steps too. The job is not that easy and the administration will have to discuss the plan in details so that it can be chalked out and implemented accordingly. Once on with the process, we need to talk to different agencies, including police and the municipal corporation. In the city, one can see many vehicles left deserted in many areas and are rotting away. They can be modified and turned into permanent shelters,” another district administration official said.

Many vehicles confiscated by the police are also lined up since years.

“The police seize many vehicles frequently for different reasons. There are many incidents in which vehicles have been recovered from criminals with hardly any claimant for the same. In such cases, the police, after permission from courts, auction these vehicles from time to time,” a police officer said.

The sources added that in a later phase, the administration could also get these vehicles.

“Right now, the administration needs to come up with a plan as there is a cost factor involved too. There are options which will open up and the administration will work accordingly,” another official said.