Guwahati, Aug. 16: Anything for a burst of rain!
After a sizzling week that included two of the hottest days in Guwahati in the past 16 years, Assam can’t seem to take the heat anymore. The government has ordered an unscheduled weeklong holiday, starting today, in schools across the state and hospitals are gearing up for a rush of patients suffering from heat stroke or related ailments.
The Met office’s forecast, alas, isn’t making anybody feel more comfortable. “There is no possibility of rain in the next 48 hours,” D. Chakrabarti, deputy director general of the Regional Meteorological Centre, said.
The Borjhar-based RMC, which has been warning of drought, believes “monsoon deficiency” this year will erase the 2001 record. From June to August this year, the “Assam-Meghalaya subdivision” has received a mere 77 cm of rain, as against the previous low of 89 cm during the same period in 2001.
Across the length and breadth of the state, farmers braced for the worst-case scenario: a barren year. The only consolation was chief minister Tarun Gogoi announcing during his Independence Day speech that the government had decided to waive land tax for farmers affected by the erratic monsoon. He said farming in over three lakh hectares had been badly affected.
Unable to bear the heat, at least one policeman and several NCC cadets who participated in the Judges Field parade slumped to the ground in front of the chief minister.
Today, the hustle and bustle that characterises Guwahati was missing from the streets. Most people stayed indoors to escape the searing sun, many even preferring to play truant from office.
Parents and heads of educational institutions welcomed the government’s decision to close all schools for a week. Kalpana Devi, whose daughter studies at Shiksha Niketan, said she would not have sent her child to school anyway. “Even at 8.30 am, the skin burns from the impact of the sun and one can imagine how difficult it is for kids,” she said.
Sister Annie, headmistress of St Mary’s School, said the past week had been very difficult for her students. “Several children in the primary section took ill last Thursday and Friday and we had to call their parents,” she said.
Joseph Thelekatt of Don Bosco High School said the decision to close schools was justified, but warned that the academic schedule of students of Classes IX and X would be affected.
Anjana Hazarika, principal of the Kendriya Vidyalaya at Khanapara, said her institution would remain open from 7 am to 11 am despite the government’s directive to suspend classes. “We cannot close the school unless a decision is taken at our headquarters. Pre-primary and primary classes have been suspended for a week, but students of higher classes will have to attend school.”