Over 100 people were killed and around 180 injured after a high-velocity dust storm followed by thunder showers wreaked havoc in parts of Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan on Wednesday night, leaving behind a trail of destruction.Trees and electricity poles were uprooted and mud houses collapsed in the high-intensity squall, officials said on Thursday.Expressing sorrow at the loss of lives, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday directed officials to coordinate with the States to ensure speedy relief and rehabilitation of those affected.“Saddened by the loss of lives due to dust storms in various parts of India. Condolences to the bereaved families. May the injured recover soon,” the Prime Minister’s Office tweeted quoting Mr. Modi. In Uttar Pradesh, at least 70 people were killed and 83 injured, with Agra accounting for the maximum casualties — 43. Three persons each died in Bijnore and Kanpur Dehat, and two each in Saharanpur, Hamirpur, Kanpur Nagar and Mirzapur districts. One casualty each was reported from Bareilly, Pilibhit, Chitrakoot, Raebareli, Unnao, Mathura, Amroha, Kannauj, Banda, Kanpur, Sitapur, Sambhal, Etawah, Allahabad and Rampur.In Rajasthan, 16 people died in Bharatpur district, 10 in Dholpur and five in Alwar, while over 100 were injured in the storm that hit the region around 7 p.m.The worst period lasted about 45 minutes, according to reports from Dholpur, but the extent of the damage was known only in the morning.Another storm comingThe Meteorological Department has issued warnings that another dust storm may hit parts of Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan in the next 48 hours due to the cyclonic circulation formation in the region.DMs on high alertUttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath has issued an advisory ordering all district magistrates to be on high alert. He has asked the district officials to calculate the losses and provide compensation to those affected urgently, a government spokesperson said.State Chief Secretary Rajive Kumar has instructed the Commissioner of Agra division to ensure that relief is distributed in the affected areas by Thursday evening and senior officials visit the injured in hospitals, said U.P. Information Department principal secretary Awanish Awasthi. Power supply was cut off in many areas as the squall uprooted trees and snapped electricity cables. Officials said it was being gradually restored.Rajasthan declares natural disasterIn towns, the storm triggered traffic snarls and in rural areas there were reports of crops being damaged due to hailstorm. Farmers lost cattle and poultry. U.P. Relief Commissioner Sanjay Kumar said 160 head of cattle were lost.Rajasthan Home Minister Gulab Chand Kataria, who also holds the Disaster Management and Relief portfolio, said the storm has been included in the category of natural disasters for the first time in the State and funds to the tune of ₹2.55 crore have been sanctioned to the affected districts.Financial assistanceThe next of kin of each deceased in Rajasthan will get financial assistance of ₹4 lakh from the Chief Minister’s Relief Fund.Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje expressed grief over the calamity and directed the Ministers and officers concerned to begin the relief work immediately and restore utilities.Power discoms have launched action on a war-footing to restore electricity supply in the affected areas, while the administration has ordered a survey of damaged properties.Major destruction was reported from Alwar district, where trees fell and power cables snapped, plunging a number of areas into darkness. In Dholpur district, relief camps have been opened for the villagers whose houses were destroyed.
There’s an unprecedented pessimism about the Lok Sabha election on April 29 among most of the 40,000 tannery workers in and around Kanpur.The issue is neither harsh working conditions nor low wages, but a total loss of jobs after 243 tanneries operating in Kanpur were closed down before the start of the Kumbh Mela at Prayagraj in January this year. The State government had ordered three-month closure of the tanneries to provide cleaner water to the pilgrims participating in the Maha Kumbh. A month has passed since the congregation got over but little has been done to restore their jobs.Asked about the extended shutdown orders, the district administration says the sewage treatment plant that treats the effluents coming out of the tanneries is overflowing. ‘Overflowing STP’The tannery owners, however, question how the STP is overflowing when their units have not been operating for the last four months. The tannery workers say they have no hope of any relief as a majority of them belong to poor Muslim families “which are low on the BJP’s priority list, and even the other parties are indifferent”. “U.P. Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath launched a scheme, ‘One District, One Product’, to promote traditional industries in the State, but he has hardly done anything to promote the leather industry of Kanpur. An established industry has been completely ruined because the people in power see it with communal lens. They think it is owned only by Muslims but forget that directly or indirectly people of all religions are part of the industry,” said Mohammad Arshi, vice-president, Leather Industries Welfare Association.‘Monitored by depts.’ LIWA claimed that the tanneries in the city are monitored by more than a dozen of central and State departments to check pollution and the tannery owners follow all rules and regulations. “Instead of protecting the industry, the government has showed them in bad light for polluting the Ganga,” said Mr. Arshi. “Our exports are at an all-time low and we are importing leather from Pakistan, Bangladesh, Thailand and other countries to meet the demand. The government has failed to see that the industry is the second biggest forex gainer in the country,” said Abbas Naqvi, a member of LIWA.“The government has failed to keep its promise on cleaning the Ganga and to show their concern, it has ordered the shutdown of tanneries,” he added.The tannery owners said they had already been severely hit by demonetisation and GST and this extended closure is killing them more. “If they (government) are so much concerned about cleaning the Ganga, why are they targeting only tanneries and no other industries like dye, textile, paper and paint. Just because they don’t consider us their vote bank, they are ignoring us,” said Mohammad Jameel, a tannery owner. A group of tannery owners on Monday met the District Magistrate of Kanpur who assured them of getting back on their grievances by May 2. The tannery owners, however, feel that things will change only after May 23, when the election results would be announced.