By Shams Qari @shamsqari
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While some of them rent shanties in slums, many of the poor resort to using public footpaths as their sleeping place.
While these pathways are full of pedestrians during the day, at night they play host to sleeping laborers and beggars who are unable to afford accommodation in the city.
Arjun Kumar, a man is his twenties said: “I don’t have money to rent a place for myself. I have to save money to feed my family back in Uttar Pradesh. Sleeping on the footpath is my only option.”
But Arjun is very aware of the dangers that are involved.
He said: “I usually avoid sleeping at isolated places. Theft, fights and killings are a regular thing among homeless people. If someone finds us sleeping alone, they can easily fight us and take our money.”
As the night shelters set up by the government are mostly congested, many homeless actually prefer to sleep in open footpaths.
Pratap, 33, a man who sleeps on a footpath near Nizamuddin, said: “If I sleep in a night shelter, I have to leave it by the morning. Even if I am sick or hurt, they won’t allow me to stay.
“A footpath is like my home. I can sleep whenever and wherever I want. The only people who harass me here are my friends who sleep on the road divider.”
Raj Kumar, a man who sleeps on a road divider, said: “Many homeless people are involved in drugs and drinking. I avoid sleeping near them when they are drunk.
“Only few days ago a person stole money from a man while he was asleep. They got into a fight in the morning which turned bloody.”
Apart from drugs and drunkards, pollution, smog, high night temperatures and reckless drivers are other dangers that people living on footpaths face regularly.
On April 20, a 16-year-old boy drove a car over a footpath killing two of those sleeping there.
Mohammad Hashim, a daily laborer, said: “There is no protection for us. During summer, high temperatures and diseases are the biggest of our problems and in winters we have no option but to bear the cold.
“Last year I caught dengue. The doctor asked me to avoid sleeping in the open as there are mosquitoes and I can get bitten again. I could not find a place so I went back to my home in Bihar.”
The Delhi Police collects around 3000 dead bodies from the roads every year. Most of them remain unidentified as they carry no documents or identity cards.