The cold wave has tightened its vice-like grip over North India. Accompanied with dense fog-like conditions, the cold wave has played havoc with plane and train schedules. According to officials in the meteorological department, the minimum temperature in the national capital was 4.2 degree Celsius on Monday, which was four notches below normal. The cold wave will continue till the weekend, said a senior officer in the Delhi MeT department. Last year the coldest 30 December in Delhi saw minimum temperatures recorded at 2 degree Celsius. Uttar Pradesh has recorded over 60 deaths due to the cold wave this month. In the summer capital of Jammu and Kashmir, temperatures have fallen to a low of minus 0.4 degrees Celsius, slightly up from the previous night’s minus 1.3 degrees Celsius. The local populace is in for a terrible winter, considering the devastation caused by the floods earlier this year. Structural repairs on damaged houses belonging to the affluent will begin once the spring sets in. But for others, the harsh winter is only one obstacle in the road to recovery. Conditions are no better in Punjab and Haryana, with Chandigarh recording a low of 5.8 degrees Celsius.
In light of these conditions, it is imperative to note how the national capital is dealing with the cold wave, especially for those who are bereft of basic housing. The homeless in Delhi are spending their chilly winter nights on the streets, alleging unhygienic conditions in government-run night shelters. Government authorities, however, have said that the homeless have exploited the situation and have become greedy for free blankets and clothes from non-governmental organisations and other good Samaritans. Reports have emerged about how the blankets provided at night shelters are full of lice. Many of the homeless have been ‘stuffed like cattle’ inside these night shelters, making it difficult for them to even turn, while sleeping. Almost every major part of the city has seen many homeless lining up on the footpaths or seeking shelter under bus stops. Although the Delhi Urban Shelter Improvement Board has claimed that there are 219 night shelters are being run in permanent structures, tents, porta cabins and community halls with a capacity of over 15,000 people, clearly the homeless have been left to fend for themselves in the biting cold. Mind you, we are talking about the national capital here. One can only imagine how bad the situation is in other parts of North India. Hence the question arises, how prepared are the respective state governments to deal with the current cold wave? Considering the body count, not much.