Delhi’s Rain Basera: An initiative to provide a haven to the homeless
The fact that homeless children in Delhi battle issues of addiction is well documented.
Every year brings a ferocious onslaught of weather to the nation’s capital. In the burning summers, drenching rains and brisk winters that hit Delhi, 50,000 homeless people have to brave this weather with no hope of respite.
Sitaram, 56, is a fruit vendor. His work day is exhausting – starting a few hours after sunrise, going late into the night. He has no shelter of his own. “It is difficult to find a reasonable place in Delhi. The streets are my bed and the sky is my roof.” he remarked. His poetic tone, speaking of immense human inequality, is beautiful and jarring.
Sonu (name changed), a 15 year old rag picker, wanders around the city in search of finding bullions from the heaps of trash he sorts through every day. Facing immense difficulties of his own, he passes through life with a crooked leg; learning between 50 to 70 rupees a day; 100 rupees on a good day. An orphan since his birth, his motivation to earn lies in addiction. He says, matter of factly, “I bought and consumed thinner for the first time when I was 9. Since then it has become a habit without which I cannot survive. I cannot afford to waste money on education and a home. I sleep wherever I find place and eat whatever I find in the bins.”
The fact that homeless children in Delhi battle issues of addiction is well documented. Reasons vary, from pressure on these adolescents without guidance, to mere curiosity, to simply a desire to feel the high, and sometimes – heartbreakingly – to escape the cold.
Another consideration for these children is the risk of marriage at a tender age. Lack of education and widespread poverty has made most parents consider child marriage a necessary tradition. The fear of being outcast from society also pushes them to get their children married at an early age. “If I do not get my children, especially girls, married at the right age, I will have to pay a higher dowry. I do not even earn enough to feed two meals a day to my family; education is a far-fetched privilege. Moreover, we will have to live as pariahs if we do not get our kids married early.” says Ramlakhan Singh, who recently got his 12 years daughter married. He sold his shack in order to gift his in-laws with a motor cycle. “My family now lives in the Night Shelter provided by Delhi Urban Shelter Improvement Board.” he added.
Many such heart-wrenching stories can be found in almost every nook and corner of the city. To curb the problem, Delhi Urban Shelter Improvement Board (DUSIB), a nodal organization for the operation and management of Night Shelters in the city, has established 198 night shelters which are run by various NGOs. Also called ‘Rain Basera’, these shelter homes provide basic necessities like durries, blankets, covered and enclosed shelter spaces, water, toilets and electricity on deposition of Aadhaar cards or after producing a out-patient department slips.
To mitigate the problem of illiteracy, the Rain Basera in Sarai Kale Khan is providing informal education to the children belonging to the age group of 5-14 years. Learning is imparted through fun activities like drawing, painting and colouring. Importance of basic health and hygiene via simple lessons like hand wash, oiling, bathing, brushing teeth are also taught. Throughout the day, children are kept entertained with the use of multimedia learning aids.
With present capacity of over 16,338 in Delhi, Rain Basera is also expanding its wings to create awareness and educate people about their facilities. It also has 20 Rescue Team (RTs) which are operated by NGOs. They have been assigned the task of moving people sleeping in the open to the nearest night shelters. These RTs patrol at night to locate people sleeping in open. Basic medical care is given and the concerned person is shifted to a hospital via ambulances.
Outside the hospitals at AIIMS and Safdarjung are four shelters, strategically placed to accommodate around 1000 people. At these places, patients and their families have to wait for months in order to get single consultation with doctors.
Rabiya Banoo (name changed) suffers from frequent fever and was referred to AIIMS. She appreciates the facilities provided by the government and suggests, “If the waiting time for consultations with the doctors is reduced, these Rain Baseras can be used more efficiently as the flow of patients can be streamlined. I feel that if these people are provided with consultations in time, the number of patients who are living this way can be reduced, and more people can avail of these facilities provided by the government.”
Apart from the RTs, the Delhi government has also launched a mobile app, called Rain Basera app, to find nearby night shelters. The ordinary citizens can download this app on their smartphone from the app store. Using this, they can help the homeless via the mobile vans of the DUSIB.