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NO SPARC OF HELP FOR NIGHT SHELTER BY BMC

Monday, December 11, 2017
By Manjiri Chitre and Priyanka Dhomse

Although not official, BMC to go in for new tenders and quotations for the night shelter at Marine Lines

Around 25 students availing of  the night shelter at Marine lines are unattended by the concerned authorities, both BMC and the coordinators. As per the caretakers, the land is owned by BMC and run by the private NGO organization SPARC in coordination with BMC. In a recent finding, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) is planning to hire new tenders for the night shelter at Churchgate.

Thousands of scraggly children roam around in the city everyday, but when the moon comes up, they have nowhere to go. In what seemed a helpful initiative, several NGOs came forward and many years back, and in tandem with BMC helped them create night shelters for the homeless children in the city.

Amongst them, is the SPARC night shelter at Marine Lines, Mumbai. The shelter was started in 1993, but due to legal issues, the BMC shut it for a few years. The shelter was re-opened in 2011 when it was handed over to the SPARC, a NGO. However, due to several complaints received by the BMC, the government body is planning to re-tender the shelter.

“We received a lot of complaints about the SPARC NGO shelter. Although it is not official yet, we are planning to remove SPARC and hire new tenders for  the shelter, once the redevelopment of the night shelter is done”, said a senior BMC official.

Currently, the SPARC Night Shelter in the city, has 25 children under their roof. According to recent findings, it has been several months, that the shelter has found new children. The shelter also has an age limit- 18 years for the children who could live under the roof.

“We are trying our best to provide facilities and happiness to the children living under our roof”, said M.G. Shekhar, Coordinator, SPARC night shelter.

According to some sources, the redevelopment of the shelter has not been done since a few months now. BMC officials lasted visited the shelter in July for inspection. Sources say, it has been 4-5 months that the government officials have not turned to check the present status of the shelter, as they are supposed to go for inspection every month.

“Earlier, the BMC officials used to come for regular checkups. But, now the last time they visited us was four to five months back. So now when we need them and their help, why are they not coming to us?”, said Gopal Sharma, Caretaker, SPARC night shelter.

The shelter struggled a lot during the monsoons this year. Due to the alleged apathy of the government body to the shelter, the redevelopment has been pending, making the shelter  a dilapidated state. There has been tremendous amount of leakage during the monsoons. The BMC has not looked at it since a long time. The Marine Line station's Foot Over Bridge is adjoining to the shelter. When a part of the bridge had fallen during the rains, the railway authorities reconstructed the entire bridge except the part which is above the shelter, leaving a huge gap causing tremendous leakage in the shelter.

Ravinder Bhakar, Chief Public Relation Officer, Western Railway, said, “The construction of the FOB at Marine lines station had been undertaken long time back, however, we are not aware about th shelter. We had no idea that  the construction has affected the wall of the night shelter attached to the same FOB (Foot Over Bridge). Hence, we will check with the concerned officials and take action accordingly, if at all the wall was dilapidated due to the FOB construction.”

Apart from that, currently there is no cook at the shelter due to the alleged lack of concern of the government body, making the children cook  themselves. Along with a cook, the children seeking to learn and move on in life, wish to have more skilled full-time tutors who could groom them.

"Though we are thankful to our caretakers at this shelter and we are getting a chance to continue our schooling, we want tutors who could help us in teaching various subjects like Science and Maths and someone who could help us in surmounting our language barrier," said Satyam Sharma, who ran away from his home as a child and has been living in the shelter for almost 10 years, currently studying in Standard 9.

Abhishekh Singh, who is currently studying in Standard 6, said, " Besides the skilled tutors, at present there is no cook at the shelter, leaving the senior students to prepare the meals."

In a hospitable initiative, the SPARC Night Shelter is starting a private medical facility for all the children living under the roof, from today. Private doctors will be available at the shelter for six days  a week. Along with this a private ambulance service will be available full time outside the shelter.

BMC's last inspection of the SPARC Night Shelter: July, 2017

The shelter had a cook who cooked food for the homeless children. But, after he resigned, the children have been cooking food for themselves at the shelter after coming back from school

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