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Winter blues: meet the Indian man on a mission to save New Delhi’s homeless from the bitter cold

Accompanied by a team of four other volunteers, Sharma begins his daily rounds at 8pm and ends at 5am. Their most important mission is to provide blankets to those without shelter to protect them from the bone-chilling cold, with temperatures dropping to as low as 3 degrees Celsius (37 degrees Fahrenheit) in January.

Sharma heads a group of 127 volunteers who have, since 2020, worked to provide basic care to homeless people, funded with money pooled from their own earnings. Two teams go out on night patrol, and this winter’s harsh weather has made their work extremely urgent.

“Since November 15, we have recovered 31 dead bodies from the streets of Delhi and have rescued over 1,000 people, including women, who were in critical condition,” said Sharma, 34.

As for the dead, Sharma said the bodies were handed over to local police stations, where the last rites are performed. Such rites are done “according to the religion of the people after ascertaining their faith”, he added.

He said his team had distributed about 2,000 blankets this winter, as well as providing first aid and transport to hospitals for those requiring urgent treatment.

“Each night, we drive around the parts of the capital city to rescue people living on the roadside to protect them from Delhi’s chilly cold. Besides collecting dead bodies, we have shifted several dozen people whose condition was critical to hospitals,” Sharma told This Week in Asia while standing in the courtyard of a homeless shelter in Old Delhi.

The Centre for Holistic Development (CHD), an organisation that works with the homeless community, says nearly 800 homeless have died in Delhi between November 1 and January 23. There were 962 homeless deaths over the previous winter.

Sharma warned that