Jalandhar: No place for the poor in this 'smart city'

With the region continuing to shiver under biting cold, Raen Baseras have failed to serve any purpose

Jalandhar: No place for the poor in this 'smart city'

Locked Raen Basera at Damoria RUB in Jalandhar. Sarabjit Singh

Tribune News Service

Avneet Kaur

Jalandhar, January 19

The Raen Baseras (shelter homes) constructed in various parts of the city for the homeless have failed to serve any purpose as the poor and homeless are spending their nights in the open.

No proper mattresses on the folding beds can be seen inside Raen Basera located near Khalsa College Flyover in Jalandhar.
A homeless person sits outside locked building. Sarabjit Singh

A visit to two of the shelter homes situated near Railway Station and Lyallpur Khalsa College revealed that there are multiple issues being faced by the visitors, but the authorities concerned are least bothered.

Real problem, but no solution

  • Despite the fact that the majority of beds lie vacant, the poor and other homeless people sleeping on roads and footpaths are not allowed to enter the Raen Baseras (shelter homes). Reason: They don’t have an id proof.
  • The homeless people say they don’t have a house or family members, not even their own photograph, how do they get an id card made? Caretakers at night shelter say it’s a strict order from higher officers that no entry without an identity card.
  • When asked the caretaker, who requested not to be named, how fair it is to let people sleep on roads that too right in front of the shelter home just because they don’t have an ID proof, he said they fear they can be criminals or drug addicts, therefore they don’t let them in.
  • Even though the answer was quite acceptable, the problem is real as not all who are looking for shelter are criminals.

There’s a board displayed on the main wall of the shelter homes, which mentions the presence of a first-aid kit, blankets, geysers, beds etc, but in reality, the situation was completely opposite. Those staying there were found shivering due to bone-chilling cold and forget about geysers, there were no proper mattresses on the folding beds. Besides, the toilets were also found to be in a filthy condition.

I have tried to avail entry to the shelter home many times, but they don’t let me in because I don’t have identity proof. I have never been to school, I don’t know who my parents are, even if I visit Suvidha Centre, they’ll throw me out realising I am a beggar. —Birju (32), A beggar

Ramesh, who runs a grocery shop near Raen Basera at Damoria underbridge, informed this correspondent that despite cold weather only five to six homeless people are taking shelter here even though there was a capacity for 30 to 35 persons.

He said most of the time this Raen Basera remains closed during day time and opens only after 8pm. “There is only one caretaker here at present. He opens and closes the hall as per his wish. We haven’t seen any cleaning staff or any other official visiting here. The condition inside is horrible. Only the poor who have nowhere to go can live here, otherwise you just can’t bear the stink that emulates from the washrooms,” he added.

Notably, when this correspondent visited during day time, the Damoria underbridge Raen Basera was found closed. Even a separate hall for women, which too was locked, looked like it hadn’t been opened since ages. Despite repeated attempts to reach out to the concerned official, whose contact number was displayed on the board there, he was unavailable for comments.

Meanwhile, the situation was similar at a shelter home near Lyallpur Khalsa College. It was also found to be occupied by fewer homeless than its actual capacity. Lying on the bed is also a compromise for visitors as mattresses and blankets were reeked of filth. Besides, the blankets were those of mild winters, and had no warmth. The water tank kept on the rooftop for washrooms was also leaking.

We’ll chalk out guidelines: MC Commissioner

When the issue of identity cards was discussed with MC Commissioner Karnesh Sharma, he said identity proof orders were passed to ensure that no anti-social elements were given shelter, but we do allow the real poor people without cards to rest inside. Meanwhile, understanding the problem is genuine, he said the MC would chalk out guidelines to find a middle path and allow entry to all. He also said a strict action would be taken against the officials who have failed to upkeep the maintenance.

#SmartCity

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