HUNGER KILLS! Aged Homeless Man Found Dead in the parking lot of Taj Mahal cafe, Hampankatta, Mangaluru, opposite Wenlock Hospital -this death of yet another homeless man is a wake-up call for the officials of District administration, Mangaluru City Corporation, and other concerned government departments-that if they don’t act soon in taking care of the many migrants, homeless, beggars, and destitute -there could be many more DEATHS in the future! Instead of CM Bommai and his government spending crores on unwanted projects, and crores on newspaper publicity, the same money could be saved during this pandemic on providing shelter, food, medicine and other facilities to these homeless/destitute- which will definitely make sense!
FOR THE KIND INFORMATION OF OUR DISTRICT ADMINISTRATION AND MCC OFFICIALS, THE HOMELESS, JOBLESS MIGRANTS, BEGGARS, DESTITUTE AMONG OTHER NEEDY PEOPLE NEED FOOD AND SHELTER ALL YEAR LONG AND NOT ONLY DURING LOCKDOWN!
Team Mangalorean contacted White Doves, the NGO that has done yeoman service for the destitute on the streets of Mangaluru and has cleared the streets of the homeless, mentally sick destitute by rehabilitating them in their Home for Destitute. Corinne Rasquinha informed us that they have almost stopped picking up the needy from the streets because of Covid not wanting to put the airway 120 destitute in their care at risk. But since there are many needy on the streets she said they are in the process of making one ward for quarantining and sealing it fully. The sight of these helpless people, men and women are disturbing. Someone needs to do something.
Mangaluru: A couple of months ago during the lockdown, everyone came forward from Politicians, NGOs, many other organizations, among others in providing food kits, lunch and dinner for the homeless, destitute, migrant workers and others- some of them did this generous service with good intention, while many other did it for namesake and publicity. Now that the lockdown is lifted, these homeless, destitute, beggars, among others are still poor and need food- which is never provided either by the government, district administration, MCC or a few other NGOs. These poor people are still hungry and need food, and NOT ONLY DURING LOCKDOWN- they are hungry and need shelter all year long- and NOT just during LOCKDOWN.
Several homeless still lie on the streets and under sheds, seeking shelter and food from the district or the government. The homeless, including many migrants, have nowhere to go and are even running out of supplies. Money is less, demands are more, income has been shut. Many of these poor have been residing in the open for years, among whom are daily wage earners, whose income is not enough to support themselves. While people of administration, police and health department they claim have been teaching them to cover their mouths and maintain a distance of at least two-three meters between themselves, nobody has offered them any food yet.
If you look around the City, hundreds are homeless, and with no money and no documents to help them access relief measures related to food, health, water, sanitation, shelter and livelihood, the homeless have become the most vulnerable to the immediate impact and aftermath of the Covid-19 crisis. Among destitute and beggars, most homeless people are domestic workers and daily-wage labourers. Even after the lockdown, they do not have a livelihood, and their lives are much worse during the monsoon. The water crisis is acute for the homeless and given the poor quality of food they consume, they are vulnerable to disease also.
In the meantime, it is even hard to figure out exactly who the homeless are and to unfold the status of various factors related to their lives – services, entitlements, government policies, access to shelter, violence and challenges specific to women. The problem is especially acute for homeless women who have malnutrition and various other diseases, mental health issues and risky pregnancies. With hospitals overburdened with Covid-19, the issue of accessibility is likely to be worse now.
Among the hundreds of homeless who go to bed hungry, here we have an example of a homeless man, who died due to hunger/malnutrition. This aged homeless man was found dead in the parking premises of Taj Mahal Cafe, opposite Wenlock hospital on Tuesday, 14 September 2021 at around 7:30 am. While a bunch of people standing close to the dead body and clicking photos, Yours Truly of Team Mangalorean angered by the stupidity of these ignorant people, made a call to 112, right in front of them to show them their ignorance in keeping quiet and not taking any action. This shows that we do have such people in Mangaluru who don’t come forward to help.
As always, whenever you make a call to 112, you get a person who is based at 112 control room in Bengaluru, and you have to spend extra minutes explaining to them the exact location of the incident. In this case, anyone and anywhere in the world would know about Hanpankatta Taj Mahal cafe, but here I had to spend some extra time to explain to the woman at the 112 centre in Bengaluru about Taj Mahal and Hampankatta- and then she asked whether it is an accident or natural death- there goes few more minutes. Then she asked under which police station jurisdiction does Hampankatta falls like I am a GPS or Alexa? Anyways, after I had done talking with the Bengaluru lady, I received two calls from two different police stations in Mangaluru, to find out the exact location. Wow- amazing 112, isn’t it. And finally, after 17 minutes or so the cops in the Hoysala car arrived and did the needful.
The entire calling and shifting of the dead body, from my first call to 112 made at 7:42 am till the police arrived at around 8:03 am, and the body was taken to Wenlock Hospital at 8:30 am- it took around 45 minutes to shift a homeless dead man to the hospital. It was better and quicker when people called 100 and local persons answered the calls, who were familiar with the places of Mangaluru, but now with persons at the 112 based in Bengaluru, they don’t know the ABCD of the places/structures in Mangaluru.
Team Mangalorean contacted White Doves, the NGO that has done yeoman service for the destitute on the streets of Mangaluru and has cleared the streets of the homeless, mentally sick destitute by rehabilitating them in their Home for Destitute. Corinne Rasquinha informed us that they have almost stopped picking up the needy from the streets because of Covid not wanting to put the airway 120 destitute in their care at risk. But since there are many needy on the streets she said they are in the process of making one ward for quarantining and sealing it fully. The sight of these helpless people, men and women is disturbing. Someone needs to do something.
This death is an awakening call to the officials of District Administration and MCC, that just like this man who died of hunger, and negligence from the authorities, many such homeless people are starving and could also face death the similar way, if quick action is not taken by the concerned soon. During the COVID-19 lockdown period, migrant population and homeless population-related issues had become a major problem, and for few months, many NGO’s and social organizations provided food for thousands of migrants/homeless, but now with lack of funds such free service has been discontinued, and these poor folks are facing the brunt of it. And even though there is a separate fund allotted by the government to take care of the homeless, nothing has been utilized for such a cause, thereby leaving the poor and homeless in agony.
Why are the homeless ignored by all sections of the government and local administration? Is it because of their invisibility? Seems like Covid-19 has exacerbated the vulnerabilities of the urban homeless communities and there has been no specific intervention for the urban homeless because of their invisibility. Why can’t the authorities provide some kind of strategies which can help the homeless deal with the crisis being created by the pandemic and the lockdown? And not simply ignore and allow them to suffer. There are chances, many of these homeless with Covid-19 symptoms are quarantined on the streets. They should be shifted to government quarantine centres and equipped with facilities before they spread the virus to other people.
It should be noted that many of these homeless have always been victims of violence and harassment. The pandemic would impact them even more acutely. It should be noted, even prior to people needing food during the lockdown, White Doves, a local NGO has been supplying food to the hungry on the streets for the past 23 years on a daily basis with a hot meal in the evening. Therefore when the initial lockdown was announced it was easy for White Doves to supply food to people in thousands. Even after the lifting of the lock-down 300-350 people were being provided food near Nehru Maidan, systematically and by maintaining social distance. That place was ideal for food distribution since whenever it rained these unfortunate brethren could move into the vacant bus stands right opposite and take shelter from the rains.
This NGO would go to these bus stands and supply the food to the waiting hungry. This arrangement went on for a couple of weeks without any hassle but the moment a local TV Channel showed this relief work going on in Mangaluru, the very same day the police were at the food distribution spot near Nehru Maidan to drive these hapless people away. They were made to go to the inner road at the Mangalore Central Railway Station and wait for the food in the pouring heavy rain without any place to take shelter in. These poor did not even have clothes to change into. Thus it became very difficult for the White Doves to provide them with their daily meals. The only reason the destitute and the NGO were asked to move to a secluded place was so that the actual plight of these people and the actual number of such people on the streets was to be hidden from the sight of the general public.
Since this NGO was asked to move from main roads to inner narrow roads to supply food to the people, which was kind of hectic, and White Doves had no intention to stop the supply of food but were forced to since people were constantly pointing out about social distancing and didn’t want to get blamed for any community spread of COVID-19. Now that this NGO has stopped providing food, which for years had kept many of these homeless alive, it is high time for the district administration to take action to help these poor citizens of Mangaluru. Even though few citizens had brought this situation to the notice of the concerned authorities, no action has been taken, and in the meantime, the homeless are starving day by day.
Due to this, the poor continue to be deprived of a hot meal and this NGO assures that if these people are housed properly in someplace by the government wherein their health can be monitored on a daily basis, it is ready to restart the supply of food to these unfortunate citizens of Mangaluru so that the less-fortunate won’t go hungry and face death. It would be nice if the government provides suitable accommodation for these in a building, and also an NGO roped in to help out, would surely take the suffering and pain out of these poor.
Without any further delay, the government and district administration needs to provide more for the needy for the successful implementation of the lockdown. No doubt, the government and authorities of various departments are facing challenges to protect the poor, but they can’t simply ignore them and allow them to die. The poor will be forced to defy the lockdown once they have no resources left to survive. In all, the lockdown will exacerbate the economic woes of the country.
The Govt and authorities need to urgently adopt measures to protect the poorest and most vulnerable people if COVID-19 containment and relief measures prove inadequate. The lockdown has already disproportionately hurt marginalized communities due to loss of livelihood and lack of food, shelter, health, and other basic needs. The government does have a responsibility to protect the health and well-being of the population, but some of these steps have left many stranded, and homeless. Homeless people need protection.
Authorities should recognize that malnourishment and untreated illness will exacerbate problems and should ensure that the most marginalized don’t bear an unfair burden from lack of essential supplies and food. The concerned authorities should take urgent steps to provide shelters and community kitchens for those most in need, taking measures to ensure physical distancing. The government should not use Aadhaar (identity card)-based biometric authentication for the distribution of free food grains to the poor. Team Mangalorean makes a humble request to the concerned authorities to take all necessary steps to ensure that everyone has access to food and medical care and that the poor and marginalized are not mistreated or stigmatized. The government’s responsibility to protect its people from the outbreak should not come at the cost of human rights violations.