At least 106 people, mostly homeless persons, have died in Delhi this month due to cold conditions, non-government organisation Centre for Holistic Development (CHD) has claimed and written to Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal requesting him to make proper arrangements for such people during winters.
While officials from the Delhi Urban Shelter Improvement Board (DUSIB) denied that deaths have occurred due to cold, officers of the Delhi Police acknowledged that the number of deaths among homeless people suffering from medical issues goes up during winters.
''There have been no deaths due to cold. However, fatalities among homeless people due to other issues, such as accidents, diseases, alcohol and drug-related problems, do take place, but DUSIB does not maintain such data," an official said, requesting anonymity.
According to a report prepared by the NGO, 106 people have died due to cold in Delhi between January 1 and January 19.
Of these, North Delhi district recorded the maximum number of deaths (33). North West Delhi recorded 13 and Southwest and Central Delhi saw nine fatalities each. West Delhi and New Delhi reported eight deaths each during the period, the report claimed.
"These are homeless people who spend their nights in the open, on the roadside or outside shops. Most of the deaths occurred due to the cold conditions this month," Sunil Kumar Aledia from the Centre for Holistic Development claimed.
CHD comprises lawyers, policy researchers and volunteers who actively analyse government policies and prepare ground reports to identify gaps for effective implementation.
Aledia said CHD procured the data from Zonal Integrated Police Network, or the ZIPNet project, started by the Union Home Ministry in 2014.
The NGO in its letter to Kejriwal, who is also the DUSIB chairman, claimed: "Amid cold weather in Delhi, 106 people, including six women, have died in Delhi till January 19."
"A DUSIB survey in 2014 had identified 16,760 homeless people in Delhi. However, the actual number of homeless people who sleep on the roadside is more than one lakh," it claimed.
According to DUSIB data, there are 308 shelter homes, including permanent buildings, temporary buildings, porta cabins and tents, in Delhi at present. These have a capacity of sheltering 9,330 homeless people.
The latest data shows that around 8,200 homeless people have been spending their nights in these shelter homes.
Aledia said a survey conducted by CHD found a large number of people sleeping in the open at and around Kashmiri Gate, Yamuna Pusta, Nigam Bodh Ghat, Jamuna Bazaar, Chandni Chowk, Delhi Gate, Asaf Ali Road, Jama Masjid, Azadpur, Okhla, Badli, Kingsway Camp, Nizammuddin and Sarai Kale Khan.
A senior police official said though not all deaths can be attributed to cold, the number of fatalities among homeless suffering from medical issues do go up in winters.
"Despite the initiatives taken and the availability of shelter homes, there is no denial about the death of homeless people due to cold. But these are those who sleep on the railway tracks, carts, roadsides, outside shops... this happens despite all agencies working together to save such people," the officer said.
Delhi reported one of the longest cold spells this January, according to the India Meteorological Department.
The maximum temperatures have been lower than normal since the second week of January. This is largely due to clouds and rain preventing long exposure to sunshine between January 9 and January 19, a weather expert said.