As the mercury plummets to 7.8°C in Bokaro on Sunday, residents cosy up to a bonfire. (Pankaj Singh)
As the mercury takes a dip in capital Ranchi, a warm-hearted administration has bailed out pavement dwellers by distributing firewood for alav (bonfire) in the last two days.
The state government decided to pay from its pocket to keep firewood burning through the chilly winter after the Centre refused funds.
Sources in the state disaster management department said the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) did not entertain a plea made by Jharkhand nearly five months ago for a sum of Rs 20 lakh for providing firewood to the poor during winter.
Although Jharkhand government had obtained funds from NDMA for the purpose in previous years, the central body refused this time arguing that it only provides assistance for strengthening risk-reduction initiatives such as training, awareness and sensitisation, sources added.
Speaking to The Telegraph on the sidelines of a state-level health disaster management committee meeting recently, department secretary M.N. Kerketta confirmed about the funds slash by the Centre for the firewood initiative.
“We expect temperatures to slide further in the coming days due to cold waves in many parts of the state. Therefore, we had demanded for funds for alav to the homeless and other street dwellers in all the districts. However, NDMA refused, saying it doesn’t fund such initiatives,” said Kerketta.
The secretary said she subsequently raised the issue during a state executive committee meeting in which the chief minister, chief secretary and senior officials were present.
“We decided to try and make provisions from the state exchequer for offering firewood to the poor. So, there isn’t any reason to worry, as we will soon make necessary arrangements in all the districts,” she added.
The department is considering allotting Rs 1 lakh each to all the 24 districts.
In Ranchi, bonfires at night have come to the rescue since Friday at Albert Ekka Chowk, Kanta Toli and other areas inhabited by the poor.
It is not yet clear whether funds were transferred from the disaster management department or the district administration is providing firewood on its own.
Meanwhile, Kerketta, after attending the first major meeting of the department to work out a roadmap for a health disaster management plan on November 24, said the most glaring problem in Jharkhand had been lack of co-ordination between various departments.
“It is a fact and we brush it under the carpet. There is a major problem of co-ordination. This is why we are trying to prepare a holistic health disaster management plan that will give us an idea on ways, techniques, responsibilities, etc. of every stakeholder in times of need,” she said.