The city’s pavements are rapidly getting filled with “ragpickers”, Kolkata’s mayor said on Friday and asked police to collect the identities of these people and shift them to shelters for the homeless.
Mayor Firhad Hakim said he would write to the police commissioner of Kolkata about the issue. He said there were two risks associated with “unidentified” people staying in the city: their dwelling on the pavement can turn into a “law and order” issue any day and the stack of bottles and bags that they keep make the city ugly.
Hakim said the police should also find out whether someone who is not an Indian is living on a pavement.
Hakim then named a few places where he said the number of “ragpickers” is increasing very fast. These are “opposite Modern High, on Southern Avenue and near the gurdwara in Kalighat”.
“If some unidentified people live in the city, it could lead to some law and order problems any day. Besides, they are also making the city ugly by stacking bottles and other items on footpaths. They cannot keep these things on footpaths,” the mayor said.
“The police have to find out who these people are. The police should check their Aadhaar cards and Voter cards, verify whether they are citizens of India. After identifying them, the police should shift these people to the shelters for the urban homeless,” he said.
“I will write to the police commissioner on the matter. They should verify the identities of these people before shifting them to shelters for the urban homeless. We have to also keep a tab on those being taken to the shelters. If someone who remains unidentified does something illegal and leaves, we will be in trouble.”
When asked whether there are adequate shelters to accommodate all pavement-dwellers, Hakim said: “We have enough shelters.”
A KMC official said there are eight shelters for the homeless in Kolkata and those can accommodate more than 5,000 people. At least four more shelters are being constructed, said an official of the Kolkata Municipal Corporation (KMC).
Police and elected representatives identify the people who need to be shifted to the shelters, said the official.
Across Kolkata, small settlements of families can be found living on pavements. They use plastic sheets, flexes and other materials to cover the place where they live. Wood collected from various places are used as fuel to cook.
A number of such people live under the Gariahat flyover, near Gariahat police station.
A KMC official said they have found that some of these people have some properties in villages. They moved to Kolkata in search of work that they did not find.