MUMBAI: The Bombay High Court bench of Justices Sunil Deshmukh and Girish Kulkarni on Wednesday said the BMC must consider constructing shelter homes in all of its 24 wards across Mumbai to ensure that the homeless and beggers don't have to sleep on roads. The bench also said that it is the obligation of the civic body to construct the shelter homes.
The judges were seized with a PIL filed through advocate Kranti L C, who sought free of cost food, water and sanitation services for the homeless citizens. He pointed out that last year the services were free for these people but this year they are being charged for the services.
Citing the census of 2011, Kranti told the judges that there are about 19,000 homeless persons in Mumbai suburban and 30,000 in urban Mumbai.
The numbers were however disputed by BMC counsel Vandana Mahadik. She sought time to place on record the exact population of these persons.
Mahadik further said that the BMC has distributed at least 6.2 lakh food packets from last year till June 10. "We are distributing over 10,000 food packets on a daily basis. Even during the cyclone, we distributed milk and snacks to such people," she submitted.
Mahadik further said that the BMC has engaged 24 buses in all the wards of the city to reach out to such people.
Having heard the contentions, Justice Kulkarni questioned the BMC counsel to spell out if the civic body has taken steps to bring such persons under a shelter.
"Have you planned to rehabilitate them and to bring some roof over their head?" Justice Kulkarni sought to know.
At this, Kranti apprised the bench of the fact that the Supreme Court had in another matter ordered BMC to construct 250 shelter homes. "But only 12 shelter homes are there in the city, despite SC orders," Kranti submitted.
"Why can't the BMC have ward-wise shelter homes? At least two shelter homes in each ward. This would help these people. At least they can go and sleep there during night time or monsoon," Justice Kulkarni observed.
"That is your (BMC) responsibility. It isn't even an issue that you aren't having money. You are earning interests on your FDs up to some 1,800 crores, we have read this in media," the judge pointed out.
The bench said the BMC must seriously consider this as it would help them to reach out to the people. "If you want to raise the level of the city to international level then you have to raise the standard of living of all these people," the bench opined.
"You are aware that your work for Covid has been appreciated by us and even by the Supreme Court. But we want you to be praised on every front," Justice Kulkarni observed while adjourning the matter for a week.