With sizzling temperatures claiming more than 300 lives this month in India, officials have banned daytime cooking in some parts of the drought-stricken country in a bid to prevent accidental fires that have killed nearly 80 more people. “We call this the fire season in Bihar,” Vyas, a state disaster management official who goes by one name, said. “Strong, westerly winds stoke fires which spread easily and cause great damage.”
The eastern state of Bihar this week took the unprecedented step of forbidding any cooking between 9am and 6pm, after accidental fires exacerbated by dry, hot and windy weather swept through shantytowns and thatched-roof houses in villages and killed 79 people.
People were instead told to cook at night. Among those who died were 10 children and five adults killed in a fire sparked during a Hindu prayer ceremony in Bihar’s Aurangabad district last week. Hoping to prevent more fires, officials have also banned the burning of spent crops and religious fire rituals. Anyone defying the ban risks up to two years in jail, the Times of India reported.
Many politicians decried the move, according to the paper. “[The] government should instead focus on increasing the number of fire tenders and repairing those which are not functional,” said opposition politician Sanjay Mayukh, a member of the right-wing Indian People’s Party (BJP).