How people on the street cope with Delhi’s scorching heat | Latest News Delhi - Hindustan Times
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How people on the street cope with Delhi’s scorching heat

May 30, 2024 12:43 AM IST

Delhi faces extreme heatwave with temperatures above 50°C, affecting workers like rickshaw pullers, parking attendants, farmers, vendors, and delivery persons.

With temperature crossing the 50-degree Celsius mark in parts of Delhi, coupled with extreme loo, outdoor workers — a majority of whom are from far-flung states — are having a hard time coping with torrid heat this summer. Working under unrelenting heat is a necessity and not an option for many of the blue-collar workers in the Capital.

Ramveer Singh, 35, traffic head constable, performs his duties at the India Gate Circle, C-Hexagon. (HT Photo)
Ramveer Singh, 35, traffic head constable, performs his duties at the India Gate Circle, C-Hexagon. (HT Photo)

Sheikh Chetu, 45, rickshaw puller

A native of Malda in West Bengal, Sheikh Chetu came to the Capital to earn a living by ferrying people on a rented cycle rickshaw. While he was making enough to subsist before summer, he said he currently has to spend a large chunk of his earnings on cold water. Pointing to a red cotton towel he had on his shoulder, he said: “My wet towel helps me a lot since I can’t find shade at many places while waiting for customers. It helps me cool my head.”

He is mulling to return home, saying people prefer cabs in summer. “I start my day in the evening since there are no customers in the afternoon. I can barely make ends meet. I barely make 200-300 on a daily basis, of which 50 is the rental,” Chetu said.

Naurej Sharma, 29, parking attendant

Coming from Bihar, Naurej Sharma starts his 12-hour shift at a busy parking lot in south Delhi early morning, but work becomes unbearable as the heat increases through the morning and noon. Sharing that his colleagues have been falling sick due to heat-related illnesses, he said: “The heat is unbearable at this point and i have to keep drinking fluids in order to work in this sun. We buy our own water and electrolytes to survive.”

He said that hot winds under harsh sun create the most uncomfortable working environment for him, as he stays on his feet for the whole shift. “This is the hottest I have felt since I moved to Delhi and I hope it doesn’t stay this way,” he said.

Sonu Rana, 44, farmer

A farmer like 30% of his co-villagers in northwest Delhi’s Mungeshpur — where a temperature of 52.3°C was recorded on Wednesday — Sonu Rana has not been visiting his fields for the past fortnight due to relentless heat. Rana said he is used to heat, but this summer feels different. “Towards the end of April, we harvested wheat. Normally, people plant jowar or padda now, but most, including myself, have not planted the next crop yet. The fields have dried up and developed cracks. It will require extensive watering,” he said, hoping for interim rainfall.

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He has been bathing his cattle twice a day, to keep them cool. Rana said he has been making sure they are not let out to graze, unless it is early in the morning. “Animals are falling sick and unless we keep them cool; my cows will fall ill too,” he said.

Sandeep, 22, street vendor

From wrapping his head with a wet cloth to covering his cart with tarpaulin, Sandeep (who goes by a single name) has been taking all possible measures to sell “gol gappas” on the Outer Ring Road, near Peeragarhi. While he usually sets up his stall around 2pm, he is currently unable to do so before 3.30pm due to extreme heat. “The sun is strong even at 5pm. Since I run my stall in the open, there is no way to escape the heat. I’ve tried putting up a tarpaulin on top, but even that heats up. I go home and fall asleep after taking a bath. This heat tires you out,” Sandeep said.

He said sales were also down during the day. “Taxi drivers will stop during the day, as they too are dehydrated and hungry in this heat. Otherwise, we don’t see many customers during the day,” he said.

Ramu, 20, delivery person

An Uttar Pradesh native, Ramu (who goes by a single name), came to the Capital to make a living as a delivery partner for a food aggregator. He said that he has to work under harsh conditions currently, with no extra pay. ”I clock almost 150km in my daily commute on a motorbike in this heat as a delivery agent, because the number of successful deliveries is tied to my weekly wages. Sometimes, people offer water and drinks, but mostly, we have to manage it on our own. There is no escape from this heat but I cover myself up as a measure while driving,” he said, wondering what would happen to him if he fell ill due to heat exposure.

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Ramveer Singh, 35, traffic head constable

Donning a full white shirt, a pair of blue trousers, a blue beret and covering his face with a handkerchief, 35-year-old traffic police head constable Ramveer Singh sips an assortment of fluids to keep herself hydrated while performing his duties at the India Gate Circle, C-Hexagon. Singh said the prevailing scorching heat is causing an array of issues, as his duty requires him to be physically present on the road. “Getting dehydrated or falling ill due to direct exposure to the blistering sun are some of the common problems that we face while performing our duties. As we have to stand or regularly walk to clear jams or remove wrongly-parked vehicles, it becomes difficult for us to drink fluids at quick intervals,” he said.

“Even as our department has given us a water jug that is refilled whenever required and supplied to us from the nearest traffic police circle or station, we have to walk a few hundred metres to reach the point where the jar is kept. In such situations, our colleagues take charge of the duty for us when we go to rehydrate ourselves,” said Singh, adding that the department is also supplying ORS packets to them.

“As we cannot leave our place of duty, we get such items delivered either by the shopkeepers or our colleagues who are not on duty. Sometimes, we also carry the fluids in small bottles in our pockets. When standing in the sun for a longer period becomes unbearable, we take shelter under the trees and rest for a few minutes, with a colleague filling in,” Singh said.

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