HYDERABAD:The heat wave toll in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana has crossed an unprecedented 2,000 mark but is it a natural calamity? Though on the face of it, it appears so, officials say it hasn’t been declared as such.
The National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) website, interestingly, flashes a new blinker, heat wave, on the list of natural calamities. Nonetheless, state officials believe it is only meant to attract public attention to an ‘advisory.’
If the heat wave is officially declared a natural calamity, a compensation of at least Rs 1.5 lakh would be given to the kin of the victims.
The previous UPA regime, way back in 2013, had constituted a group of ministers to consider adding heat wave to the list of natural calamities like earthquakes, droughts, cyclones and landslides. “Thousands die every year due to heat wave and we have managed to declare even cold wave as a natural calamity. Declaring heat wave as a natural calamity only means victims can get compensation on a par with victims of other disasters,” explained former NDMA vice-chairman M Shashidhar Reddy, who had forwarded the proposal.
A senior official at NDMA, New Delhi, though, clarified that no notification had been issued regarding inclusion of heat wave in the category of natural disasters.
“On the NDMA website, we have put it as an advisory for public awareness. We do not issue such a notification, the Ministry of Home Affairs does,” said the official. According to Reddy, the health ministry had expressed reservations over inclusion of heat wave in the list claiming that it was difficult to detect deaths caused by heat wave.
“Based on local level inquiry, the mandal revenue officer prepares a certifying report. We also get reports from district collectors on the number of fatalities due to heat wave,” explained BR Meena, revenue secretary, Telangana. In Andhra Pradesh, when contacted, Tulsi Rani, special commissioner of disaster management department, said: “There is no ex gratia from National Disaster Response Fund or State Disaster Response Fund. AP State has already announced Rs 1 lakh compensation to the kin of victims from the CM’s relief fund.”
In Karimnagar, where 97 persons have died due to the heat wave, the district medical and health officer Mohammad Alim admitted that the department had received no instruction from the government to conduct autopsy and decide the cause of deaths. Heat wave typically causes dehydration, heat cramps, exhaustion and stroke.
According to the latest official records, around 450 and 1,150 people died due to the heat wave in the erstwhile Andhra Pradesh in 2012 and 2013 respectively.