March 28, 2023

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The working poor bear the brunt of India’s heat wave

By Sunil Kataria

NOIDA, India, May 16 (Reuters) – Construction worker Yogendra Tundre has found life difficult at a construction site on the outskirts of the Indian capital, New Delhi. But this year has become unbearably hotter than ever before.

While India is mired in an unprecedented heat wave, most of the country’s working poor, mostly working outside, are particularly affected by the hot temperatures.

“It’s so hot. If we don’t work, what’s we going to eat? We work for a few days and then we do nothing because of fatigue and heat,” Tundre said.

The temperature in the New Delhi area this year was around 45 degrees Celsius and often Tundre and his wife Lata, who works at the same construction site, fell ill. That is, they lose revenue.

According to the Indian Meteorological Department (IMD), parts of New Delhi are likely to reach temperatures above 49C on Monday due to incessant heat wave.

“Because of the heat, sometimes I don’t go to work. I take vacations (…) many times, I get sick because of dehydration, and then I need glucose bottles (nerve fluids),” Lata said while out. House. , A temporary hut with a tin roof.

Scientists link the early onset of hot summer to climate change, with more than a billion people in India and neighboring Pakistan at risk of extreme heat.

India has been experiencing extreme heat for more than 100 years in March this year, and some parts of the country experienced unprecedented temperatures in April.

It was over 40 degrees Celsius in many places including New Delhi. More than 20 people have died of heat stroke since the end of March and the demand for electricity has peaked for several years.

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Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has called on state governments to take action to reduce the impact of the scorching heat.

Tundre and Lata live with their two children in a slum near a construction site in New Delhi’s satellite city of Noida. They moved from their home state of Chhattisgarh in central India around the capital in search of work and higher wages.

At the construction site, workers measure the walls, lay concrete and carry heavy loads, and wrap their heads in rags to protect them from the sun.

But, even if the couple finishes their work day, they do not get rest because their house is warm after soaking in the sun all day.

According to Avigal Somwanshi, an urban environmental activist at the Center for Science and the Environment in India, data from the federal government show that heat stress is the most common cause of death by natural forces after lightning in the last 20 years.

“Most of these deaths are caused by men between the ages of 30 and 45. These are working class men who have no choice but to work in extreme heat,” Somwanshi said.

In India, unlike in some Middle Eastern countries, there are no laws barring outdoor activities when the temperature rises above a certain level, Somwanshi said. (Reporting by Sunil Kataria in New Delhi; Written by Shilpa Jamkandikar; Editing by Neil Fulik and Bradley Berrett; Translation by Tario Fernandez)