VIJAYAWADA: At 10.30 pm on Wednesday, H Rajesh was eagerly waiting near Prakasam Barrage for Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu to reach his home in Undavalli. The reason: Once the TDP supremo’s convoy crosses the barrage, police will allow him to sleep on the pavement there. He was not alone. About 50 others like him hit the sack on the pavement. Most choose the pavement not because there is nowhere else to go, but as the two night shelters in the city insist on Aadhaar cards for entry.
“I came from Rajamahendravaram six months ago in search of work. I am a daily-wage worker and get work only a few days a month. When I tried to spend the night at the shelter in Hanumanpet, they asked me to show my Aadhaar card. I wasn’t allowed inside as I didn’t have the ID card. So, I have been sleeping on the barrage pavement for the past few months,” Rajesh said.
The pavement is cold comfort for those who have been spurned from night shelters as mercury levels dip as low as 15 degree Celsius. “It gets really cold as there is water under the barrage. Even though I cover myself with a newspaper or a blanket, it doesn’t help,” said 33-year-old A Ramesh, a cook, who migrated to the city from Mylavaram a few years ago. He is one of many without the passport (Aadhaar) to comfort.
The city has two night shelters in Hanumanpet and Rani Gari Thota, with a collective bed capacity of 152. Even though the Vijayawada Municipal Corporation announced three more facilities near Raghavaiah Park, Ramarajya Nagar and Krishnalanka two years ago, they are yet to be ready. “Once the three facilities become operational, 300 more beds will be available.
The works are in the final stages and are likely to be ready in a month’s time,” a senior VMC official added. On its part, Guide Foundation, which manages the night shelters in the city, maintained that they made Aadhaar mandatory to filter out people with criminal backgrounds. “We have had several bad experiences with people with criminal backgrounds creating nuisance in the shelters.