“If this is the case, I won’t apply for the shelter project in the upcoming years,” said Vinay Stephen, secretary of the Sadik Masih Medical Social Servant Society – among the six NGOs that oversee the Delhi government’s 195 night shelters.
Stephen’s organisation has been battling a crisis of funds with the Delhi Urban Shelter Improvement Board yet to clear its dues for nearly one year. At least three other NGOs are facing the pinch. All of them had been granted a tender by the DUSIB, which functions under the Delhi government, to oversee the shelters and offer various services such as caretakers, electricity, maintenance and sanitation, etc.
The problem isn’t new. NGOs, or shelter management agencies, have repeatedly asked the government (DUSIB) to clear their dues. Even in November 2020, they that the government had only reimbursed around 20 percent of their total expenses since the Covid-induced lockdown in March that year.
“There is a directive from the authorities to provide masks and hand sanitisers at the shelter. We have so many expenses and have to follow so many procedures, but financial assistance from the government is pending. If this assistance is delayed, how will we survive,” asked Stephen, whose NGO has been working under a DUSIB contract for the past five years.
Among the five other management agencies are the SPYM, Safe Approach, Rachna Women’s Development Association, Prayas and Centre for Equity Studies.
SPYM executive director Rajesh Kumar said they are taking loans from banks to pay salaries of the caretakers and sanitation workers and carry out electricity works at the sites. “No one gains from this except the banks,” said Kumar, whose SPYM has been working with DUSIB since the latter’s inception and overseeing around 50 shelters.
Safe Approach’s executive director Santosh Kumar said that they are managing through loans “even though it’s incredibly challenging”. “It was fine until 2021, but after that year, things started to go wrong and we stopped receiving payments.”
The issue was brought up on December 27 last year at a meeting of the DUSIB with members of the state-level shelter monitoring committee, or the SLSMC, which was set up by the Supreme Court to monitor these shelters in 2018.
Speaking to Newslaundry on January 5, Devesh Gupta of Prayas said, “We spoke to DUSIB members even yesterday about our issues. It is unclear how we will undertake maintenance if we have outstanding payments given that we routinely have official visits from people like the L-G who ask us to maintain different components. Since we are a non-profit organisation…our problems have caused employee payment delays and we are completely blamed.”
SLSMC member Indu Renuka Prakash said payment has not been regular and has been pending for one or two years in many cases. “The SMAs don’t have deep pockets. At the SLSMC meetings, we asked DUSIB to clear the backlog…yet this huge gap continues. It impacts the care and concern of the homeless…with caretakers not paid their wages for months at stretch, it impacts their lives as well as those whose care is entrusted to them.”
DUSIB member Bipin Rai said they have “already sent a proposal to the finance department of the government. “All the formalities to transfer the funds are met. It will come in very soon. Once we receive the funds from the government, we will transfer it to the NGOs.”
As the winter chill set in, the Arvind Kejriwal government had announced a winter action plan to rescue the homeless, and provide them meals and accommodation. The Delhi BJP, however, continues to target the AAP government, alleging a rise in the number of deaths due to the absence of adequate shelter facilities.
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