Too hot even for vultures as Delhi swelters
Tuesday 13 June 1995
India and Pakistan are being roasted by the hottest summer this century. More than 240 people have died in the month-long heatwave searing the north-west of the sub-continent, sending the mercury up to 50C (122F). A fiery red canker on the meteorological maps, the heat wave has spread across north and central India and into parts of Pakistan.
All of Punjab, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Haryana, Madhya Pradesh and most of Maharashtra states are in its grip.
For more than a month now, the daytime temperatures in northern India have seldom dropped below 43C. In Pakistan, as temperatures soared to 50C in some southern regions, over 22 deaths were recorded last Thursday.
Night offers scarce relief, since temperatures dip only slightly, into the mid 30s.
It is even too hot for vultures to fly. On the spacious boulevard in New Delhi leading to the presidential palace, dozens of the birds waddle on the edge ofponds, unruffled by policemen chasing after naked boys who dare to splash in the municipal waters in full view of the capital's ministers and visiting foreign dignitaries. Housewives angry about dry water taps have staged street protests. The capital depends for its water on neighbouring states and rival political parties have used water as an instrument to taunt the Delhi state government.
It is so hot that just outside New Delhi the other day I saw a motorist who had pulled his overheated car off the road surrounded by thirsty monkeys. They had swung down from the dry, crackling forest and were sitting in a circle like beggars watching him pour water into his steaming radiator.
In Rajasthan, it is even worse for humans. With no rain for over six months, hundreds of wells have dried up, forcing villagers to walk in searing heat up to six miles a day through deserts of stone and thorn trees just for a bucket of water.
Often, villagers are forced to stand for hours in long queues around the well before, balancing the water jugs on their heads, they wearily make the return trek to their homes.
One 60-year-old village woman named Kannibal told the Indian Express recently: "We are dying of thirst. I cannot lift the pitcher any more."
Even those villagers lucky enough to have water do not know how long it will last, and quarrels often break out as one village tries to forcibly stop their neighbours from replenishing their pitchers.
For some Rajasthani villagers, a pitcher of water is not enough to survive. Farmers are watching their cattle die one by one from the drought.
But a camel cartload of water costs 60 rupees (pounds 1.20), far more money than a farmer's monthly earnings. To pay off the rates charged by the moneylenders, many farmers must hire themselves out as little better than slaves, according to some reports.
During the British colonial days, civil servants would decamp from New Delhi into the cool Himalayan foothills in summer. The advent of the air conditioner ended that pilgrimage, but now too many New Delhi-wallahs possess coolers, overloading the electricity supply.
Power blackouts are a thrice-daily occurrence, and the civil servants often sneak off into the hills anyway.
The late arrival of the monsoon rains is one reason for the heatwave.
On 6 June, a week behind schedule, the western monsoon finally swept off the ocean into the parched southern regions of India.
As it advances northwards, the landscape changes as if by magic, turning within hours from dead-brown to a shimmering array of greens.
So far, though, according to weather experts, it is still too early to tell whether this year's monsoon has the strength needed to break India's drought.
World's most lethal spider found under a bunch of bananas
Rumours that the star wants to move on to pastures new
TV presenter Fiona Bruce seemed a bit startled by the find during the filming of Antiques Roadshow
Comedian says he 'never laughed as hard as I have writing with Rik'
- 2 Ebola outbreak: What is bushmeat – and is it to blame for the disease that has killed thousands?
- 4 Russell Brand might seem like a sexy revolutionary worth getting behind, but he will only fail his fans
- 5 Michael McIntyre walks off stage after woman in the front row uses her phone
Ebola outbreak: What is bushmeat – and is it to blame for the disease that has killed thousands?
Oscar Pistorius sentencing: Olympic star must serve 10 years, prosecutor urges
Isis fighters 'crucify' 17-year-old boy in Syria
Kentucky gang rape: 15-year-old boy left in critical condition after sexual attack by group at party
Oscar Pistorius sentence: Athlete's wealth and notoriety provoke an overdue debate on South African prisons
Cameron is warned 'no possibility' of UK reducing immigration and that bid to bring in quota on migrant workers would be illegal
Sorry Judy Finnigan – Ched Evans is no less sickening than an alleyway rapist
Residents should throw a street party and mix with immigrant neighbours, councils told
Workers 'could be forced to pay £5 a week' to get benefits
Russell Brand threatened with arrest after filming outside Fox News headquarters
Amal Alamuddin calls for the return of the Elgin Marbles from Britain: 'Injustice has persisted for too long'
£25000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based in Chelmsf...
£110 - £135 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: We are seeking a Drama tea...
£110 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: We are seeking a languages...
Negotiable: Randstad Education Plymouth: Randstad Education Ltd are seeking KS...