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Posted at: Jan 8, 2017, 12:41 AM; last updated: Jan 8, 2017, 12:41 AM (IST)

Sleepless in Ludhiana

Gurvinder Singh in Ludhiana
Sleepless in Ludhiana
Migrants sleep at the night shelter near Clock Tower, Ludhiana. Tribune Photo: Himanshu Mahajan
Young Gopi is from Assam. In search of work, he arrived in distant Ludhiana a month back. No acquaintance and no place to stay, he landed at the night shelter, his ‘half-home’, near the railway station. He thinks he is lucky the night he gets a place to sleep at the shelter home. “You can’t be lucky all the time,” he says. 

He is among 7 lakh migrants who come to the industrial city for work. The railway station night shelter has an unwritten rule about some facilities (a mattress & a quilt): first-come-first-served. So, those who come late jostle for space, and if they fail, they sleep out in the cold corridor, at times without a mattress or a quilt. Around 70 men, five rooms! “The quilts often stink,” says Lali Bansal, who works as cook at wedding palace. 

An acceptable level of sleep is a rarity. “Two persons share a mattress, and you are not sure who would come to share it. Some people are a pure nuisance, forcing you to wake up frequently,” says Hari, who works as labourer. But there are ‘acchhe log’ as well. Lucky, who recently broke his leg, is unable to go out and earn. For him, others bring food, and sometimes, a little laughter. “It is hard to earn, but we try to bring in food for the helpless,” says Rajiv Kumar, an inmate.

Malkit Singh, caretaker, says: “We can’t ensure full cleanliness when there are so many inmates. We need more staff and more night shelters.” The other two night shelters at Miller Ganj and Hambran Road are worse off in the absence of cleanliness. Beggars spend their daytime there and get out at night, most of them, at Jagraon bridge or religious places where they hope to get some food. Deputy Commissioner-cum-Municipal Commissioner Ravi Bhagat says he would ensure that there are enough quilts at night shelters. Shivram Siroye, president of Ann Jal Sewa Trust, an NGO, says the administration must ensure that all beggars stay at night shelters and get food. 

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