Summer fires force Bihar village diktat on no cooking stoves

Patna, April 16 (IANS) The fear of devastating fires during the scorching summer in Bihar has led people in some villages to ban the use of stoves durimg daytime to cook food. Violators would be slapped with shoes and would have to pay a fine, officials on Saturday said.

Fire incidents are common during the hot summer months in rural Bihar, where people are vulnerable as most still live in thatched homes.

Officials said that fire incidents have been on the rise due to a heat wave with temperatures as high as 42 degrees Celsius over the last 10 days.

Fear of sweeping fires is such that people in over a dozen villages in Bagaha in West Champaran district, sounded the drum (dugdugi) to warn villagers not to light firewood or kerosene stoves to cook food after 9 a.m. to minimise the chance of fire incidents, a district official said.

They have also issued a diktat to punish violators. “Such people will be beaten with shoes and slippers and have to pay Rs.1,000 fine.”

“Villagers have also formed teams to ensure people adhere to the diktat and identify the violators,” district officials said.

According to latest data compiled by the state disaster management department, 23 people and over 50 animals have been killed, while seven people injured as well as 11 animals wounded in fire incidents till Friday. Some 5,742 families have been affected so far this summer across Bihar.

In West Champaran alone, more than 800 families have been badly hit by fire incidents this summer. Majority of the people are living in thatched homes made of hay and other flammable material.

Local officials have been directed to create awareness among the people about preventive measures, like not to use firewood stoves during the afternoon hours in view of the westerly winds sweeping the state that cause fire incidents. “Westerly winds sweeping the state cause most of the fire incidents in rural areas as they flare up a small spark or stove fire,” an official said.

People in West Champaran’s Laxmipur, Patilar, Ratwal, Lagunaha, Sitapar, Ahirwalia have decided to cook their food early in the morning due to the westerly winds that start blowing after 10 a.m.

In some other villages in the district, people have decided to manage life without cooking food.

“Villagers in Panchgawan village and other neighbouring village under Emra police station have not been cooking food in the night too. Some villagers are also not using the traditional kerosene oil lamps for light at nights, and using only battery torch and rechargeable electricity lamps for light,” officials said.

Officials said some 400 cases of fire were reported in the state so far. The worst cases have been reported from remote villages where most houses have thatched roofs.

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