After the coronavirus lockdown was eased, Mukesh Kumar travelled about 160 km from his village in Hazaribagh, Jharkhand, to have his mother-in-law treated for breast cancer at the Rajendra Institute of Medical Sciences in Ranchi. The elderly woman was operated upon and released from the hospital but she, Mukesh and his wife stayed in the city.
“We are waiting for advice about her treatment,” Mukesh explained. “The doctors are not optimistic, but we are.”
It had been three weeks since they arrived in Ranchi. They could not afford to pay for a hotel, so they were staying in a dilapidated structure near the hospital designated as a Rain Basera, or night shelter. The shelter, inaugurated in 2015, is owned by the RIMS Hospital, an autonomous medical college, and caters chiefly to its patients and their attendants, who are charged Rs 50 per day. “The 70 rooms are adequately provided with blankets and medicines,” the RIMS Hospital boasts about the shelter. “Kitchen facilities are provided to the attendants for preparing their own food.”
Mukesh disputes this. “Most of the rooms don’t have fans. Ours does have a fan, but I had to buy a light bulb. There is no cooking gas either. We buy food from the shops outside and it’s of very poor quality.”
Sanjay Kumar Verma echoes Mukesh. Sanjay, from Giridih, is staying at the shelter while his father awaits surgery at the RIMS Hospital. “The doctors have been delaying his operation. They haven’t been able to even detect the disease yet. And while he’s being treated, I have found myself space here. The shelter has three washrooms which are shared by men and women. There is a bed, but no provision of blankets or bed sheets. We have to arrange it all ourselves.”
According to the latest , released in 2014, Ranchi should ideally have 11 night shelters, including exclusive ones for women and their dependent children as well as for families living on the streets. It has only four, besides a couple of shelter homes for children. As per the 2011 census, Jharkhand has a of over 23,000. There is no official data but it is likely that a significant number of them is in the capital Ranchi.
The shelters are run not by the Ranchi Municipal Corporation but by brought in by the government. The RIMS Hospital shelter, for one, is run by Annapurna Utility Services, a private company.
The shelters, set up under the National Scheme of Shelter for Urban Homeless, announced by the central government in 2013, are meant to provide all essential services to the urban homeless. As the union housing and urban poverty alleviation ministry , the objective of the scheme is to “ensure availability and access of the urban homeless population to permanent shelters including the basic infrastructure facilities like water supply, sanitation, safety and security”.
But Newslaundry visited some of the shelters in Ranchi and found them lacking in more ways than one.
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