The Telegraph
Friday , December 16 , 2011
Since 1st March, 1999
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Tough winter test on road & at home
- Homeless fight cold with straw

Patna, Dec. 15: Battling winter remains an uphill task for homeless people in the city despite the Supreme Court’s order to make night shelter arrangements for them so that no life is lost in biting cold.

Chief secretary issued orders last week to all district magistrates to take necessary steps to shield underprivileged from the chill. So did the deputy chief minister, Sushil Kumar Modi, yesterday. He directed district magistrates to make arrangements of bonfires for poor people.

Till Modi and the chief secretary’s orders are executed today, the homeless people had to fight cold themselves — with plastic sheets or cloth banners. Blanket distribution among people living on streets started today.

Bonfire arrangements were also made today at six places. But till last night, the temperature was unbearable for the homeless. They had to spend the nights shivering.

Asha Devi, a homeless woman, was wandering on the streets desperately yesterday afternoon looking for woods to beat the biting cold. But she could not find any. As the cold became unbearable, Asha was forced to set a pile of garbage and plastic on fire. She also tied plastic sheets all over her body to keep herself warm.

Like Asha, hundreds of street dwellers are forced to live in the open in the chilly weather despite the apex court’s order to all the states to shield them from cold.

Fifteen-year-old Samay, working with a tea vendor near Chhajjubagh locality, wrapped plastic polythene bags on his feet, which have developed fissures in the winter.

Kalanag, another destitute wandering around Gandhi Maidan, pulled down a cloth banner dangling between electricity poles and collected some jute bags to stitch a “winter suit”.

Jhulan, a rickshaw-puller, and his family living in a rainbasera (night shelter) near the museum have made blankets out of plastic sheets.

Jaade ne to narak hi bana diya hai... mausam nahi, garibi humari sabse bari dushman hai (winter is turning out to be hell. Poverty is our biggest enemy and not weather),” said Jhulan, a rickshawpuller.

Said another dweller at the shelter: “Many among us smoke cheap narcotics or bank on country-made liquor to keep winter at bay. There have been absolutely no arrangements either by the district administration or the municipal corporation. All they have done so far is providing some straw at the shelter, which we use as rugs to sleep on.”

There are about 25,000 homeless people in the city. Most of them are migrant labourers or rickshaw-pullers, who take shelter in railway stations, bus stands, temple compounds, open verandas in markets and footpaths.