Patna, April 28 (IANS) If the authorities’ advice is taken as an edict, meals will not be cooked and ‘havans’ for religious rituals not conducted between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. during dry summer months in rural Bihar where most people live under thatched roofs.
The advisory has been issued to minimise the risk of fires, which are common in the plains of Bihar during the hot summer days and annually take a heavy toll both on humans and property.
Should violation of the advisory by any villager result in a blaze, the state disaster management department officials have warned of strict action against concerned officials.
The advisory and warning of strict action have been issued on Chief Minister Nitish Kumar’s orders, the disaster management officials said.
There is also a potent threat of legal action under the National Disaster Management Act, 2005, that includes a jail sentence between one and two years and/or fine if violation of the safety guidelines results in conflagration.
More than 65 people, among them women and children, have been burnt alive in blazes in Bihar in the past two weeks.
Over 100 head of cattle also have perished and thousands of houses, belonging to the poorest of the poor, destroyed in these fires.
Annually hundreds of families are rendered homeless and forced to seek shelter under trees or tents made of plastic sheets and rags as the heat wave sweeps the flat lands of the state.
In Gopalganj district, authorities have banned the age-old practice of burning crop residue/stubble in agricultural fields, and decided to rope in 70,000 volunteers for firefighting operations.
Gopalganj District Magistrate Rahul Kumar said: “We have launched an awareness campaign using audio-visual clips and distributing pamphlets. We have urged people not to burn anything during daytime, when westerly winds blow. And also not to perform any religious rituals like ‘havan’ during the day as flying sparks could lead to fire.”
Officials said fire accidents are on the rise as the maximum temperature has gone up to 42 to 44 degrees Celsius in the last 10 days.
Early this week, fearing raging blazes, some residents in over a dozen villages in Bagaha in West Champaran district asked villagers not to use firewood or kerosene stoves for cooking after 9 a.m., a district official said.