Kathmandu vows to rescue homeless from City’s streets, but without proper homeworkOf the 215 homeless persons rescued last week, many have returned to the streets because of unconducive living environment in shelters.
Kathmandu Metropolitan City last week claimed to have rescued 215 homeless people from the streets of Kathmandu, but many have termed the move a gimmick, as the City has no long-term, sustainable plan to rehabilitate homeless people.
But when the Post took a round of the streets on Saturday morning, significant temples in the metropolis, such as Bhadrakali, Mahankal, Sankata, Pashupatinath, were filled with beggars and homeless people, with a few even returning from the shelters made by the City office.
Speaking to the Post, City’s spokesperson Ishwor Man Dangol said that the rescued people had been taken to Balaju Industrial District Management Office. “Some of them, who had families, were handed to their parents and relatives. Those who didn’t have relatives were sent to Manav Sewa Ashram,” said Dangol.
He said the City is sheltering nearly 500 homeless persons in coordination with the ashram currently. The city pays a monthly rent of Rs167,000 for houses rented from the Ashram in Budhanilkantha and Samakhushi.
After Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli’s repeated announcements to make the streets of the Capital beggar-free this year, the City announced a drive to rehabilitate the homeless while celebrating its 25th anniversary on December 15. Last week, it began the drive. The videos and pictures that showed the City’s vans, operating in coordination with Nepal Police, driving around the streets to pick up homeless people during the night, also went viral.
“We were sleeping near an overhead bridge in Ratnapark. I just ran from the place when I saw City officials approaching us. They were forcefully taking people inside a van,” said a beggar who didn’t want to disclose his name. He was begging in the southern part of Mahankal temple.
When the Post approached Mahankal temple on Saturday morning, more than two dozen beggars, many of them homeless, were out on the temple’s premises.
Tilak Maya Karki, 55, came to Kathmandu from Dolakha along with her handicapped husband to Kathmandu five years ago. Since then, she has been begging outside Mahankal every Saturday and cleaning the temple’s premises. Her husband makes bamboo baskets and head straps in Dhalku, where they live in a rented room.
She said that more than half a dozen homeless people, who were taken last week by the City, have already returned. “I don’t think this problem can be solved permanently. They should not be taken forcefully; many of them have returned not liking the place,” said Karki.
The City took an initiative to rescue people from the streets after 18 homeless people died due to the cold in Kathmandu in December last year. However, people living on the roads say they don’t like living in a shelter home.
“I have spent nearly one-and-a-half years at Manav Sewa Ashram in Samakhusi. People living on the streets have different kinds of mental problems. We would get beaten and the food never tasted good there,” said Bir Bahadur Tamang, 70, who has been begging outside Bhadrakali temple premises for the past one-and-half years after he left the Ashram. Tamang is half-paralysed.
“Although they have clean beds, they would not let us get into the bed until it was sleeping time. We never had any substantial thing to do the whole day. They would make us wake up at 5 am; that was not tolerable for an elderly and disabled person like me,” said Tamang, who is originally from Nuwakot.
He added that he had seen people working in the Ashram beating rescued people ruthlessly. “From the outside, the place seems good. But if you have to spend a week there, you will see it is torture,” said Tamang.
In April last year, Pashupati Area Development Trust had declared the Pashupati area a ‘no-begging’ zone, removing around 180 beggars. However, within a month, the area was filled with beggars who had run away from the Ashrams in Samakhusi and Budhanilkantha.
When the Post contacted Suman Bartaula, secretary of the Ashram, to inquire about the reason people were running away from the Ashram, he said it was a problem of adaptation. “Most of the homeless people are alcoholics. Inside here, we try to keep them in discipline, and they can’t cope with it and run away,” said Bartaula.