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NEW DELHI : On a day when a spell of rain on late Saturday night brought Delhi's cumulative precipitation this January to 88.2 mm, which is the highest in the month since 1950, according to Indian Metrological Department (IMD), comes another news that at least 106 people have died in the national capital this month due to severe cold  conditions. 

The non-governmental organisation Centre for Holistic Development (CHD) has also attested the fact that these people who died were mostly homesless persons. 

According to a report prepared by the NGO, 106 people have died due to cold in Delhi between 1 January and 19 January.

Of these, North Delhi district recorded the maximum number of deaths (33). North West Delhi recorded 13 and Southwest and Central Delhi saw nine fatalities each. West Delhi and New Delhi reported eight deaths each during the period, the report claimed.

"These are homeless people who spend their nights in the open, on the roadside or outside shops. Most of the deaths occurred due to the cold conditions this month," Sunil Kumar Aledia from the Centre for Holistic Development claimed.

CHD comprises lawyers, policy researchers and volunteers who actively analyse government policies and prepare ground reports to identify gaps for effective implementation.

Aledia said CHD procured the data from Zonal Integrated Police Network, or the ZIPNet project, started by the Union Home Ministry in 2014.

The NGO has also written to chief minister Arvind Kejriwal to make proper arrangements for such people during winters.

The NGO in its letter to Kejriwal, who is also the DUSIB chairman, claimed: "Amid cold weather in Delhi, 106 people, including six women, have died in Delhi till January 19." 

"A DUSIB survey in 2014 had identified 16,760 homeless people in Delhi. However, the actual number of homeless people who sleep on the roadside is more than one lakh," it claimed. 

However, officials of Delhi Urban Shelter Improvement Board (DUSIB) have denied the report claiming that these people died only because of the cold conditions. 

DUSIB acknowledged that homeless people who have medical ailments die during winters and the numbers are significantly more than any other time during the year.

''There have been no deaths due to cold. However, fatalities among homeless people due to other issues, such as accidents, diseases, alcohol and drug-related problems, do take place, but DUSIB does not maintain such data," an official said, requesting anonymity.  

According to DUSIB data, there are 308 shelter homes, including permanent buildings, temporary buildings, porta cabins and tents, in Delhi at present. These have a capacity of sheltering 9,330 homeless people.

The latest data shows that around 8,200 homeless people have been spending their nights in these shelter homes. 

Aledia said a survey conducted by CHD found a large number of people sleeping in the open at and around Kashmiri Gate, Yamuna Pusta, Nigam Bodh Ghat, Jamuna Bazaar, Chandni Chowk, Delhi Gate, Asaf Ali Road, Jama Masjid, Azadpur, Okhla, Badli, Kingsway Camp, Nizammuddin and Sarai Kale Khan.

A senior police official said though not all deaths can be attributed to cold, the number of fatalities among homeless suffering from medical issues do go up in winters.

"Despite the initiatives taken and the availability of shelter homes, there is no denial about the death of homeless people due to cold. But these are those who sleep on the railway tracks, carts, roadsides, outside shops... this happens despite all agencies working together to save such people," the officer said. 

Delhi reported one of the longest cold spells this January, according to the India Meteorological Department.

The maximum temperatures have been lower than normal since the second week of January.  This is largely due to clouds and rain preventing long exposure to sunshine between January 9 and January 19, a weather expert said. 

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