Acche Din? – Reflections on the Heatwave Engulfing AP and TS
Large parts of the country are reeling under a severe heatwave, and the two states of Andhra Pradesh & Telangana have been the worst hit. State governments are tinkering with ‘orange alerts’ and ‘red alerts’, and the news media is stacking up the numbers with every passing day.
The official response to the rising death-toll has been public advisory notices exhorting people “not to venture into the outside without a cap, to drink water and other measures”. Also, the authorities have requested “NGOs and government organisations to open up drinking water camps so that water will be readily available for all the people in the towns”.
Now, let’s not kid ourselves into thinking that the incredible toll of deaths (be it 500 or 1200) is a consequence of a natural calamity and irresponsible individuals who foolishly ventured out without a cap! Let’s acknowledge that these deaths were preventable!
In spite of our resurgent GDP, little has changed for the poorest in the country. The real killers in this heatwave are homelessness, destitution, starvation, lack of access to healthcare and the scarcity of drinking water. Distress migrants still move to towns in large numbers and find only hard labour under the sun, if at all. Homelessness is rampant, with little to no attention being paid to the housing needs (such as electricity and water supply) of even long-term residents of cities, let alone migrants. The destitution of the elderly, with only meagre social security in the form of pensions for a few, is extreme. Official statements have even indicated that majority of the victims have been “construction workers, the elderly, or the homeless”.
So why is no one asking the bigger questions? Why is no one (besides a few tweeters) pointing to the responsibility of the state and society in this disaster? In this atmosphere of celebrating one year of Achhe Din and one year of Bangaru (Golden) Telangana or Navya Andhra Pradesh, it appears that even 1200 deaths are not enough to establish that not much has changed.