23 April, 2021

Chilblains On The Soul

With no contingency plans and few resources, the northern belt reels under a cold wave. Hundreds of the abject poor succumb.

Chilblains On The Soul
In Delhi the skies may have opened up and the mercury may have risen. But for well over a fortnight the capital and the northern states of UP, Bihar, Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan were gripped in a severe cold wave that caught authorities off-guard. No one was prepared for the extended chill, with the homeless taking the brunt of it. At the end of the fortnight, by one estimate well over a 1,000 people had died. And the worst is not quite over yet in Bihar and UP.

The two states were the worst affected. It is also here that the state failed to provide much needed relief. In Patna, outside CM Rabri Devi's bungalow on Anne Marg shivering villagers from Bahtiarpur wait imploringly for an audience. Abject poverty forced them to travel 45 km despite the bitter cold to assemble outside the CM's residence for free blankets—like beggars seeking alms. Says Kabootri: "We heard on the baja (radio) that blankets are being distributed here by the CM but so far we have got none and the securitymen have asked us to go away."

In Lucknow, Raju, a beggar in his 60s, has made a...

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