The heat wave sweeping the Indian peninsular has drastically affected Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, and parts of Maharashtra and Karnataka, with rising temperatures leading to severe sun strokes. In efforts to curb heat-related deaths, Telangana’s government as well as NGOs took various relief measures, and the trend seems to be continuing in Maharashtra, starting with Pune.
In an initiative by the auto-rickshaw union Rickshaw Panchayat, close to 50 vehicles have been stocked with water bags of 5 -6 litre capacity, along with a glass. Drivers plan to hand out water to passengers or passersby looking to quench their thirst in the city’s scorching heat, who can identify the water-carrying vehicles with a ‘Phirti Panpoi’ (Travelling Water Tank) sticker stuck on these rickshaws.
The initiative was kicked off by Sarang Awad, Deputy Commissioner of Police (Traffic). As the convenor of the rickshaw union Nitin Pawar told
Indian Express, “Rickshaw drivers in Pune have often involved themselves in many social causes. Newspaper stands at rickshaw points, providing prasad at the time of major festivals, giving away food to warkaris during annual dindi are some of them. Taking ahead the same commitment, we have started this new initiative by equipping 50 autorickshaws with water bags which will offer cool water to people. Depending on the response, we will expand it to cover more auto-rickshaws.”
In the past, individual efforts to beat the heat by public transport drivers have been recorded, such as Kolkata’s Dhananjoy Chakraborty who planted grass atop his cab to keep it cool. Siddharth Chavan, the driver of one Phirti Panpoi, stated that the response for this initiative has been good. “Most people who approach us for water are acquaintances and fellow rickshaw drivers. One in five passengers also ask for water,” he added.