In­dia bans day­time cook­ing as tem­per­a­tures soar

7 Days in Dubai - - GLOBAL NEWS -

Cook­ing dur­ing the day has been banned in some parts of In­dia as the coun­try suf­fers a heat­wave that has claimed the lives of more than 300 peo­ple this month.

The east­ern state of Bi­har last week took the un­prece­dented step of for­bid­ding any cook­ing be­tween 9am and 6pm, af­ter ac­ci­den­tal fires ex­ac­er­bated by dry, hot and windy weather swept through shan­ty­towns and thatched-roof houses in vil­lages and killed 79 peo­ple.

They in­cluded 10 chil­dren and five adults killed in a fire sparked dur­ing a Hindu prayer cer­e­mony in Bi­har’s Au­rangabad dis­trict.

Hop­ing to pre­vent more fires, of­fi­cials have also barred burn­ing spent crops or hold­ing re­li­gious fire rit­u­als. Any­one de­fy­ing the ban risks up to a year in jail.

“We call this the fire sea­son in Bi­har,” Vyas, a state dis­as­ter man­age­ment of­fi­cial who goes by one name, said. “Strong, west­erly winds stoke fires which spread eas­ily and cause great dam­age.”

Much of In­dia is reel­ing un­der a weeks-long heat­wave and se­vere drought con­di­tions that have dec­i­mated crops, killed live­stock and left at least 330 mil­lion In­di­ans with­out enough water for their daily needs.

Rivers, lakes and dams have dried up in parts of the west­ern states of Ma­ha­rash­tra and Gu­jarat, and over­all of­fi­cials say that ground­wa­ter reser­voirs are at just 22 per cent ca­pac­ity.

In some ar­eas, the sit­u­a­tion is so bad the gov­ern­ment has sent tankers of water for emer­gency re­lief.

At least 300 peo­ple have died of heat-re­lated ill­ness this month, in­clud­ing 110 in the state of Orissa, 137 in Te­lan­gana and another 45 in Andhra Pradesh, where tem­per­a­tures have been hov­er­ing around 44C.

State me­te­o­ro­log­i­cal of­fi­cial YK Reddy said the sit­u­a­tion would only get worse in May, tra­di­tion­ally the hottest month in In­dia.

The south­ern state of Andhra Pradesh is run­ning ads on TV and in news­pa­pers urg­ing peo­ple to stay in­doors dur­ing the hottest hours.

Huge num­bers of farm­ers, mean­while, have mi­grated to nearby cities and towns in search of man­ual labour.

This is the se­cond con­sec­u­tive year south­ern In­dia has suf­fered from a deadly heat­wave, af­ter some 2,500 peo­ple died last year.

Orissa’s cap­i­tal of Bhubanesh­war and Ma­ha­rash­tra’s city of Nag­pur joined Gu­jarat’s Ahmed­abad in launch­ing a heat­wave pro­gramme to ed­u­cate peo­ple on how to stay cool, pro­vide shel­ters and train med­i­cal work­ers on deal­ing with heatre­lated ill­nesses such as sun stroke and de­hy­dra­tion.

This week, more than 150 lead­ing In­dian econ­o­mists, rights ac­tivists and aca­demics ex­pressed their “col­lec­tive anx­i­ety about the enor­mous suf­fer­ing of the ru­ral poor” in an open let­ter to Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi.

The let­ter says the of­fi­cial re­sponse to the cri­sis has been “sadly list­less, lack­ing in both ur­gency and com­pas­sion”.

While the mon­soon is not ex­pected un­til June, ex­perts hope there would be spells of light rain. BP Ya­dav from In­dia’s depart­ment of me­te­o­rol­ogy said: “The ef­fect could last a few days.”

COOL­ING OFF: A man splashes him­self with water from a bro­ken pipe in Samba, In­dia

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