The twin Telugu-speaking states have the dubious distinction of recording the most number of deaths due to heat stroke over a five-year period for which data is available. One out of every five deaths due to heat wave is in Andhra Pradesh or Telangana.
In 2015, one of the hottest summers on record, day temperatures soared to 46 degrees Celsius in the city on May 21 and Khammam recorded 48 degrees on May 24. Though official statistics for 2015 are not available with NCRB, the death toll was pegged by officials at 1,636 persons in Andhra Pradesh and 561 in Telangana. Once the statistics for 2015 are incorporated in the NCRB data, the figure may look more shocking.
Worse than neighbours:- Strangely, while the statistics for the Telugu States are scary, those for the neighbouring states are not. As the comparative chart shows, all the other states have managed to limit the number of deaths due to sunstroke after 2010. Over the last five years, neighbouring Karnataka, which shares similar topography and geographical features with many districts bordering A.P. and Telangana, has seen only 46 deaths. Similarly, Tamil Nadu has recorded only 19 deaths with no deaths over the past three years.
Misleading data? - But there is a big question mark over the data – the way it is collected and tabulated with pressure of top district officials to play down the numbers to limit the propaganda potential.
“Unfortunately, the problem lies with data collection and access. States primarily collect data of such type for use by the NCRB. They do not proactively disclose the data and information they are compiling for sending it to the NCRB. They have the data, tabulated and ready but we get to know about it a good 18 months later when the NCRB finishes compiling it. Which is a strange irony," says Rakesh Reddy Dubbudu an RTI activist and an advocate for use of public data.
Data for planning:- In most countries, data is not just for academic use or to score brownie points by politicians. It is used to craft policies and to prevent disasters. “As it stands today, government departments use data only for reporting. It is for post mortem rather than for proactive planning and forecasts. We have a long way to go in that aspect with availability of useful, real time data is the key. An open data policy with a mandate will help matters," says Mr. Rakesh.