In Pictures: Delhi's homeless battle cold - Al Jazeera English

In Pictures: Delhi's homeless battle cold

With worst winter in over decade, thousands of people in India's capital struggle to get shelter in freezing conditions.

Rajan Zaveri |

The statistics that this is the most severe winter in 18 years holds no warmth for more than 100,000 homeless people, who have struggled to find place under the roof, particularly as night shelters in Delhi are in short supply.

Both the government and non-profit authorities struggle to offer shelter, but there is always too less for too many people in distress.

Seventy five-year-old Mohammad Rafik and his wife have been left homeless in the harsh winter after authorities used bulldozers to demolish their homes a day after Christmas near the Mansarovar Park Metro line in north east Delhi.

The aged couple, along with 175 other families, has nowhere to go after their shanties were cleared early in the morning by the railway authorities even as the Indian capital was witnessing a bitter cold.

About 900 people, including about 500 children, have been trying to keep warm as temperatures have hit as low as 1.2 degrees Celsius. There have been confirmed reports of at least 2 dead in Delhi so far due to cold wave.

Rafik is crippled and lies in the sooty dust with his wife next to a smouldering fire lit by pieces of plastic.

The newly elected Aam Aadmi Party government in Delhi has called to stop all demolitions and has promised to provide more shelters for the homeless.

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal has offered to replace the temporary tent shelters with porta cabins and also set up 45 more shelters.

Delhi has roughly only 180 night shelters, which essentially fulfils the bare minimum number requirement of one shelter per 100,000 population.

In March last year, a proposal was put forward for vertical housing for slum dwellers, but there hasn’t been momentum on that since.

Hundreds of slums in Delhi have been cleared or resettled to outskirts of the city in the past to make way for infrastructure and beautification projects.

And for the homeless, winter only makes a hard life harsher.

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