A major heat wave in India has now killed more than 1,400 people. Indians are advised to stay inside, in the shade, or whatever they can do to stay out of the heat. It seems like the logical thing to do, but for some people, there is no choice but to brave the heat.
There are huge urban slums in India that consist of dilapidated structures that give little to no relief to the heat. And then there are some people that don’t even live with a structure over there head, and instead live right on the street. I traveled to India in January to Kolkata. One day after playing with kids in school, a little girl grabbed me by the hand and and took me to show me her home. She was so proud to introduce her dad to me when I realized that the piece of sidewalk I stood on was her home. There were many more people up and down the pavement that I’m sure don’t have an “inside” to go to find relief from the heat.
For those that might have somewhere to escape the heat, if they’re living in extreme poverty, they can’t afford to lose a day’s work when they don’t make more that $1.25 anyways. To go without that is life-threatening in itself.
"Either we have to work, putting our lives under threat, or we go without food," farmer Narasimha said to the Associated Press. He lives in the the badly hit Nalgonda district of southern Andhra Pradesh state.
In the same report, construction worker Mahalakshmi asked AP, "If I don't work due to the heat, how will my family survive?" He earns about $3.10 a day in the city of Nizamabed.
So while temperatures have reached 117 degrees Fahrenheit in some parts of India, the poor are still forced to work because not doing so could be just as jeopardizing as the heat for one’s family.
Staying safe and healthy is always a challenge for people living in extreme poverty, and this is another example that shows how crisis affects the poor differently and how they suffer the most when natural disasters and extreme weather events occur.
The heat wave is still supposed to last several more days, but hopefully it ends swiftly and the Indian rains can come in to cool things off.