Temperatures have begun surging past normal levels and a heat wave has taken hold in several states, portending a summer of discontent with millions of people already hit by droughts and sunstroke-inducing weather.
Since the month began, more than a hundred people have died in Telangana and Andhra Pradesh while districts of Maharashtra have been battling a severe drought and water crisis. The Marathwada region is one of the worst hit and the state has decided to send tankers after taps ran dry.
The unusual April heat – signs of an intensifying but possibly normal summer, according to weather officials — comes amid criticism of state and central administrations over relief measures. On Saturday, the Centre released Rs 12,230 crore to pay MNREGA wages that had run into backlogs from the past year.
MNREGA, the rural employment scheme, is a crucial source of earning for many and often the only income for thousands of families when harvests fail.
The water crisis is already a raging issue in Maharashtra where the Bombay high court said IPL cricket matches be moved out of the state to save water. In Latur, one of the worst affected areas, local authorities have imposed orders to prohibit gathering of more than five people near water tanks until May-end to stop any possible violence over water.
The agriculture sector has been reeling from two back-to-back drought years and 91 reservoirs, critical for storing water for drinking, hydroelectricity and irrigation, were down by a third compared to last year’s levels on April 1.
Rural development Birender Singh said the fund release would take care of pending wage liability of states for the previous financial year and help run the programme during the current year.
While there is no indication of the summer continuing on a particularly harsh track, the India Meteorological Department (IMD) forecast a heat wave until Sunday in Bihar, Odisha, Jharkhand and the Gangetic plains of West Bengal.
“If you look countrywide, then you’ll find that weather in Punjab, Rajasthan and Haryana is cooler than what it is in south and central India. By May, these states will begin to heat up. That’s the normal pattern,” IMD deputy director-general BP Yadav said.