Home ODISHA LATEST Govt figure of 5 heat-stroke deaths this summer not believable

Govt figure of 5 heat-stroke deaths this summer not believable

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Odisha Sun Times Bureau
Bhubaneswar, Apr 22:

While there have been at least 20 reported heat stroke deaths in Odisha since the beginning of this summer, the official records have put the casualty figure at just 5.

This, many say, is a deliberate attempt by the  government to hide the actual number of casualties to cover up its failure in tackling the natural calamity. Heat wave

” We have read reports that at least five people died on the day of voting itself. How can the government say the total sunstroke deaths this year is only five,” asked a man waiting at the Baramunda bus stop for a bus to Bhanjanagar.

There is strange lack of enthusiasm or commitment on the part of government agencies this year as far as responding to this annual natural disaster is concerned.

“It  is a fact that the entire government machinery is pre-occupied with the general elections, but this can not be an excuse not to take the basic minimum steps to prevent heat stroke deaths. Even the temporary roadside stalls  that offer cool drinking water every year are a rare sight this year,” remarked a senior citizen in Lingaraj Vihar.

Senior journalist Jatindra Dash has questioned the very method adopted by the state government for confirmation of the reported cases of heat stroke deaths.

” The government collects information on heat stroke deaths from the media and then sends them to the concerned local administration for verification.Based on the reports it receives from them, the government confirms the deaths. There is no sue-motto flow of information from the districts to the Revenue and Disaster Management department. Why can’t the government direct all the district collectors to report such deaths on their own along with medical reports ?’, he asks.

While 78 people, on an average, die of heat stroke in Odisha every year as per official records, the fact remains that it is not considered a natural calamity and the compensation or ex gratia paid to the families of the victim is fifteen times less than the compensation paid to victims of  calamities and disasters listed by the Central government.

It is worthwhile here to mention that the Centre has accorded natural calamity status to flood, cyclone, tsunami, earthquake, fire mishap, cloudburst, cold wave, hail storm, avalanche and pest attack and set up the National Disaster Response Fund (NDRF) to provide compensation or financial assistance to the affected families.

Besides, for tackling these calamities and raise awareness among the people, the Centre has also made provision for setting up of State Disaster Response Fund (SDRF) to provide financial assistance and compensation to the victims’ kin.

However, neither lightning nor sunstroke figures in this category and there is no provision for any compensation from either NDRF or SDRF to the victims of these natural phenomenon.

The state government has written letters to the Union Home ministry at least thrice demanding the inclusion of heat stroke and lightning strikes in the official list of natural calamities, but unfortunately not followed it up with any degree of sincerity.

As a result, while the affected families in the 12 enlisted categories are receiving compensation of Rs 1.5 lakh, the state government is presently providing compensation of only Rs 10,000 from the Chief Minister’s Relief Fund (CMRF) the kin of the victims of heat stroke and lightning.

Secondly, the meagre compensation is paid after going through a whole lot of cumbersome procedures that result in undue delay in the final payment.

The sunstroke deaths reached an all time high in 1998 with the death of 2042 people- as per official records- in Odisha. While many say it was an exaggerated figure, there are claims that it was much higher.

Though the rate of heat stroke casualties came down appreciably in the subsequent years due to statewide awareness campaigns, the state government has failed to achieve zero casualty till date.

As per the records available from the office of the Special Relief Commissioner (SRC), while 99 people had died in 1991, 29 died in 2000, 25 in 2001, 41 in 2002, 68 in 2003, 45 in 2004, 236 in 2005, 22 in 2006, 47 in 2007, 68 in 2008, 87 in 2009, 100 in 2010, 22 in 2011 and 86 in 2012.

Though over 100 sunstroke deaths have been reported in 2013, there is no specific record on the exact number of deaths.

As per the records available from the office of the Special Relief Commissioner (SRC), while 99 people had died in 1991, 29 died in 2000, 25 in 2001, 41 in 2002, 68 in 2003, 45 in 2004, 236 in 2005, 22 in 2006, 47 in 2007, 68 in 2008, 87 in 2009, 100 in 2010, 22 in 2011 and 86 in 2012.

Though over 100 sunstroke deaths have been reported in 2013, there is no specific record on the exact number of deaths.