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About The Asian reporter. (Portland, Or.) 1991-current | View Entire Issue (May 16, 2016)
ASIA / PACIFIC
May 16, 2016
THE ASIAN REPORTER n Page 3
Parts of India ban daytime cooking as hundreds die of heat
DANGEROUS DAYS. An Indian worker splashes
water on his face while trying to cool himself on a hot
summer day in Allahabad, India. Much of India is reel-
ing under a weeks-long heat wave and severe drought
conditions that have decimated crops, killed livestock,
and left at least 330 million Indians without enough
water for their daily needs. Pictured in the bottom
photo is an Indian family returning in a battery-
operated rickshaw after buying an air cooler
from a wholesale market in New Delhi, India.
By Nirmala George and Indrajit Singh
The Associated Press
ATNA, India — With sizzling
temperatures claiming more than
300 lives last month in India,
officials said they were banning daytime
cooking in some parts of the drought-
stricken country in a bid to prevent
accidental fires that have killed nearly 80
The eastern state of Bihar took the
unprecedented step of forbidding any
cooking between 9:00am and 6:00pm, after
accidental fires exacerbated by dry, hot,
and windy weather swept through
shantytowns and thatched-roof houses in
villages and killed 79 people. This includes
10 children and five adults killed in a fire
sparked during a Hindu prayer ceremony
in Bihar’s Aurangabad district.
People were instead told to cook at night.
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 heat wave 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
groundwater reservoirs are at just 22
In some areas, the situation is so bad the
government has sent tankers of water for
emergency relief. Monsoon rains are still
weeks away, expected to start in June.
At least 300 people died of heat-related
illness in April, including 110 in the state
of Orissa, 137 in Telangana, and another
AP Photo/Manish Swarup
AP Photo/Rajesh Kumar Singh
45 in Andhra Pradesh where tempera-
tures since the start of April have hovered
around 111º Fahrenheit (F).
That’s about 8ºF to 10ºF degrees hotter
than is normal for April, according to state
meteorological official Y.K. Reddy. He
predicted the situation would only get
worse during May, traditionally the
hottest month in India.
The southern state of Andhra Pradesh is
running ads on television and in
urging people to stay
indoors during the hottest hours.
Construction and farm laborers are
advised to seek shade when the sun is
Huge numbers of farmers, meanwhile,
have migrated to nearby cities and towns
in search of manual labor, often leaving
elderly and young relatives behind in
This is the second consecutive year
southern India has suffered from a deadly
heat wave, after some 2,500 people died in
scorching temperatures last year.
Though heat waves are common during
Indian summers, authorities have done
little to ensure water security or prepare
urban populations for the risks.
Bhubaneshwar and Maharashtra’s city of
Nagpur joined Gujarat’s Ahmedabad in
launching a heat wave program to educate
people on how to stay cool, provide
shelters, and train medical workers on
dealing with heat-related illnesses such as
sun stroke and dehydration. But most
cities and states lack such programs.
More than 150 leading Indian econo-
mists, rights activists, and academics
expressed their “collective anxiety about
the enormous suffering of the rural poor”
in an open letter to Prime Minister
The letter said the official response to
the crisis has been “sadly listless, lacking
in both urgency and compassion,” and
urges Modi to restore funding for a
government program guaranteeing 100
days of paid work a year for the poor and
While the monsoon is not expected until
June, weather experts hope there will be
brief spells of light rain sooner.
“The effect would last a few days, before
temperatures start rising again,” Indian
Meteorological Department spokesman B.
P. Yadav said.
Nirmala George reported from New Delhi.
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