Heatwave: LG orders paid break for labourers, calls CM insensitive; Delhi min says shun negativity

PTI, May 29, 2024, 7:35 PM IST

With Delhi sizzling under an intense heatwave, Lt Governor V K Saxena on Wednesday directed that a paid break from noon to 3 pm be given to labourers, along with water and coconut milk at construction sites, as he flagged the ”lack of sensitivity” on the part of Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal.

Hitting back, Delhi Health minister Saurabh Bharadwaj said the AAP government was making heatwave preparations even before the LG office became active and urged Saxena to ”give up negativity”.

Saxena directed that the three-hour break for labourers has been implemented by the Delhi Development Authority since May 20 and will continue across all sites till temperatures come down below 40 degrees Celsius, according to a letter sent to Delhi Chief Secretary Naresh Kumar by the principal secretary to the Lt Governor.

It said Delhi is facing an unprecedented heatwave with temperatures hovering around 50 degrees Celsius in some parts for the first time in the city’s history.

On Wednesday, Mungeshpur area logged a maximum of 52.3 degrees Celsius, the highest ever temperature recorded in the city, while Delhi’s primary weather station Safdarjung observatory recorded a maximum temperature of 46.8 degrees Celsius, highest in 79 years, officials said.

”Ordinarily, he (Saxena) had expected that the chief minister or the concerned minister would convene a meeting for a heat action plan in the city. The lack of sensitivity and seriousness in dealing with the heat wave is a matter of grave concern for him,” it said.

The LG had instructed the DDA on May 20 to make adequate arrangements for providing water and coconut water to labourers at construction sites so that they can stay hydrated, officials said.

In the letter, Saxena said the chief secretary may immediately call a meeting of officers from the Public Works Department, Delhi Jal Board, Irrigation and Flood Control Department, Municipal Corporation of Delhi, New Delhi Municipal Council, Power Department, and the Delhi Urban Shelter Improvement Board and issue necessary directions for protecting labourers and supervisory staff from extreme heat conditions.

He also directed that earthen pots with drinking water should be arranged at bus shelters, treated water from STPs be sprinkled on the roads, and water sprinklers installed at high-rise buildings be activated to bring down the ambient air temperature and tackle pollution, they said.

The letter said, the plight of the poor labourers, who toil relentlessly in sweltering heat warrants a humane approach of administration. Thousands of homeless people and street vendors who spend their day on the footpaths, sometimes with babies without access to drinking water is a heart-rending sight.

In a post on X, Bharadwaj said the letter written by the LG office was spreading falsehood and he shared a clip of a news conference that he addressed on Monday wherein he explained the AAP government’s action plan to tackle heatwave in the city.

During the press briefing, the minister had said two beds each at 26 hospitals and five at Delhi government-run LNJP hospital were being kept reserved for heat stroke patients.

The directions to tackle heat wave will be implemented across all construction sites in Delhi, including those of government agencies and private establishments, officials said.

Meanwhile, the Labour Department of the Delhi government, in an advisory issued on Monday, listed the various measures needed in view of the heatwave conditions prevailing in the national capital.

The circular asked establishments to ensure adequate clean drinking water availability at the workplace, availability of coolers/fans at the workplace and proper ventilation.

The circular also said no worker should be allowed to work in direct exposure to sunlight, and advised a change in the shift of work as far as possible to avoid peak hours between 12 noon to 4 pm.

Sensitising the workers about precautions to be taken during the heatwave conditions including covering their heads during direct exposure to sunlight, availability of emergency kits having ice packs, oral rehydration solution sachets and other items were prescribed in the advisory.

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