Temperature may be touching record lows with each passing day but if district magistrates and superintendents of police across the state are to be believed, there is little cause for worry. According to them not even a single person has died in the cold wave in Uttar Pradesh this season!
This when the dip in mercury has led to intense cold wave in the state with temperature in several areas reaching sub-zero levels. Almost 240 deaths have been reported across UP.
Taking cognisance of media reports, the revenue department recently shot off letters to the DMs to give clarification. Shockingly, they replied that postmortem report of the deceased do not confirm death due to cold. “Rather the persons fell victim to disease like cardiac arrest, asthma, tuberculosis, respiratory problems and asphyxia,” the reports said. In other cases, the DMs stated that the families had cremated the bodies of the victims even before the lekhpal could arrive to ascertain the cause of death.
The state government has released Rs. 20 crore for the procurement of blankets, bonfire and construction of temporary shelter homes.
“The district magistrates of all the 75 districts have dispatched a report to the revenue department informing about the progress made in the regard. Surprisingly, none of the DM has reported death in respective districts,” said a revenue department official.
A DM, in his report, said majority of the persons who were reported dead in cold wave were found sleeping on gunny bags, bed sheets and their bodies were covered with quilt. Moreover, they died in their hutments and hospitals, he said. “Media has not shown that the body of those persons had turned stiff due to cold,” he added.
The question that arises is that why are the DMs shying away from admitting deaths when the state government has already announced R1.25 lakh compensation to the families of people who die due to natural calamities?
Another district magistrate, on the condition of anonymity, gave the answer.
“In a recent order, Supreme Court has directed the government to take action against the district magistrates if there was death due to hunger, cold wave or heat wave in their area. To save our skins we are not reporting deaths in our respective districts,” he added.
The biggest sufferers among all are poor people majority of who migrate to cities and town in search of petty jobs and sleep in the open, which makes them vulnerable.
The compensation would have been big support to the family in the case of the death of an earning member.
Relief commissioner, L Venkateshwarlu said, “The district magistrates have been directed to distribute food among the destitute, migrant labourers staying in shelter homes and those suffering from malnutrition. They have been also told to provide free medicine to the poor.”