How heatwave crippled Delhi's socio-economically vulnerable

The worst affected by the scorching heat in Delhi are the underprivileged -the street vendors, rickshaw pullers, the hawkers- who cannot 'stay indoors' and are left to battle with the sun.
‘Golgappa’ seller Nanhe Lal goes about his business in Delhi's scorching heat.
‘Golgappa’ seller Nanhe Lal goes about his business in Delhi's scorching heat. Express photo

NEW DELHI: Amid days of intense heatwave conditions that prevailed over the national capital, perhaps the worst affected are those living in informal settlements, working outdoors, street vendors, hawkers, and all the disadvantaged population who cannot afford to adhere to IMD heatwave alerts and ‘stay indoors’, instead scouring the streetsm, forced to earn a living under the scorching sun.

Ranjit Kumar, bent with nearly 80 years of age, sells coconut at Nehru Place market. “If I don’t work how will I feed my family?” asks wonders.

The last few months have been tough. A drop in commuters at Nehru Place crossing impacted his daily sales, his income. His son, also selling coconuts, says, “We buy 2-3 kg coconuts. In the last few months, we have hardly managed to sell our stock.”

Nanhe Lal from Badaun,UP shares a similar story. A ‘golgappa’ seller by trade, carrying a basket on his head under the afternoon sun, he peddles snacks in areas around Okhla Mandi. “Sometimes I get dizzy and sit in the shade; but I can’t stop, or I won’t be able to feed my five children,” he says.

Ranjit, Nanhe Lal barely make Rs 200-300 a day. Thousands of the urban poor in the capital city are forced to work in the extreme heat, risking their health and lives.

Rickshaw pullers in Chandni Chowk said they struggled to get passengers amid the heat, hardly putting together Rs 500 at the end of day’s works.

Rickshaw puller Raja Ram says, “Rs 100 goes as daily rent, no matter how liitle I make. In the harsh heat, I often feel exhausted. Earnings, too have dropped; it is difficult to manage even two meals a day.”

Marginalised worst hit

Unprecedented temperatures have severely impacted those working with limited resources. Construction workers, security guards, and others who work all day in the sun are suffering the most. Often, they have no choice but to work. Over 50 people in Delhi died from heatstroke; yet the working class continues to toil on scorching days.

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