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A 70-year-old, ill Ghumarwin cobbler dies of cold in a rain-shelter

Under Article 21 of the Constitution provides fundamental right of life and liberty to citizens and according to a 2012 verdict of the Supreme Court of India “right to shelter” is also right to life and had ordered authorities of northern states to gear up to preserve and protect the lives of the people of weaker sections and destitute.

BILASPUR- A 70-year-old man was found dead in a rain-shelter. He was identified as Dharam Singh, resident of Dada in Ghumarwin, Bilaspur. Dharam Singh was a cobbler and used to sit near a rain-shelter at Dakari Chowk and repaired shoes and chappals for living. According to reports, he was ill for last many days due to cold. Owing to illness, he thought of taking rest and went for a nap in the rain-shelter. Eventually, due to lack of any help or assistance in cold winters, he died.

No one knows how long had he been laying dead in the rain-shelter. A lady came to get her shoes repaired and tried to wake him up. She called for him repeatedly, but didn’t receive any reply, so she informed other people, who then gathered and came to know about cobbler’s death.

They informed the police, but no one cared to cover the body with a cloth. After hours of wait, police arrived and sent the body for postmortem after taking it into custody. DSP Ajani Jaswal confirmed the report.

The incident poses serious question on policy makers who have completely ignored interests and rights of poverty stricken senior citizens, like this poor cobbler. There might be a number of schemes for poverty stricken section of the society, which are limited to announcements and official papers even after 70-years of Independence.

Under the Senior Citizen Act 2007, State Governments should set up at least one Old Age Home for every 150 beneficiaries in a district. These homes are to provide Senior Citizens with minimum facilities such as food, clothing and recreational activities.

Under Article 21 of the Constitution provides fundamental right of life and liberty to citizens and according to a 2012 verdict of the Supreme Court of India “right to shelter” is also right to life and had ordered authorities of northern states to gear up to preserve and protect the lives of the people of weaker sections and destitute.

Hearing a PIL filed by advocate E R Kumar alleging seeking its direction to governments to build shelter homes as many homeless people die due to cold in winter, a bench of justices Dalveer Bhandari and Dipak Misra had said,

Nothing is more important for states than to protect and preserve lives of the homeless people. Threat to life is perceivable in severe cold and states must comply with all its obligations under Article 21 by providing shelter to the homeless people.

The bench had further added,

We direct the authorities, particularly in northern states of Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar to provide at least temporary night shelters to preserve and protect the lives of homeless people in consonance with the philosophy of the Constitution under Article 21.

In 2014, the apex court headed by Chief Justice H L Dattu had again warned Himachal Pradesh along with UP, Delhi, Haryana and Rajasthan to build sufficient number of shelter homes for homeless people ahead of the winter season.

In 2015, an RTI by Dev Ashish bhattacharya had exposed that the state received Rs. Rs 6, 04, 45,000 as on March 30, 2015 for the construction of shelter homes for poor in 11 districts under National Urban Livelihood Mission scheme, but the government didn’t built even a single shelter-home.

The number of homeless in Himachal Pradesh might be lower as compared to other states, but there are destitute or poverty stricken senior citizen who have no idea how to approach government for their rights. Mostly, these unfortunate souls like Dharam Singh or people living below poverty line (BPL) aren’t aware of the fact that there are provisions for people like him and the governments have been playing politics over poverty alleviation programmes.

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