For Saroj Kumar the weather is just another issue she has to brace herself for. The 29-year-old who works as a domestic help in Delhi’s Dwarka is one of the many who are forced to work in all extreme weather conditions.

This summer, the maximum temperature in the national capital soared close to 50 degrees Celsius. Two weather stations, Mungeshpur and Narela, observed the high temperature touching 49.9 degrees Celsius on Tuesday.

The manual observatories at Aya Nagar and Ridge near Delhi University surpassed their previous maximum temperature records, reaching 47.6 degrees Celsius and 47.5 degrees Celsius, respectively.

The city's Safdarjung Observatory, Najafgarh, Pitampura, and Pusa also recorded their highest temperatures: 45.8 degrees Celsius, 49.8 degrees Celsius, and 48.5 degrees Celsius, respectively.

The India Meteorological Department (IMD) has issued a red alert for May 29 and 30 in six states: Rajasthan, Punjab, Haryana, Delhi-NCR, Western UP, and Madhya Pradesh.

“It is now the second week since the heat wave to severe heatwave persisted in North-West India. The temperature exceeded 47 degrees Celsius. We had issued a Red Alert. For tomorrow, a red alert has been sounded in Rajasthan, Punjab, Haryana, Delhi-NCR, Western UP and Madhya Pradesh. Heatwave to severe heat wave will prevail," IMD Scientist Dr Naresh Kumar said.

Kumari, who lives with her children, husband and parents in a small shanty, wakes up at 7 AM, to complete her chores before she has to head for the job.

“I leave my home at 8 AM, and after a small break in the afternoon set out again for work, and then come back at 8 PM,” she told The Citizen.

Kumari is not alone in this ordeal. The summer heat poses significant challenges for street vendors as well, impacting both their health and livelihoods.

Despite being used to the heat, Kumari said that this year the situation is really bad. “I work in at least five to six houses in the locality, some homes have poor ventilation and it feels suffocating,” she said.

Kumari, who is a mother of four children, earns the majority of her household income as her husband who is a manual labourer earns whenever he gets any work. “In some houses I work at, the owners switch on the air conditioner and there I do not feel sick,” she said.

However, at most places Kumari has to brave the heat, making her fall sick frequently. “I just recovered from the heatwave, and had suffered fever and cold,” she said, adding that this year the heat is unbearable than other times.

Rakesh, who is in his mid-30s is a vegetable vendor and leaves his house early in the morning. He told The Citizen that he has no choice but to go outside to earn a living.

“I am used to the heat, although this year it is unbearable. But we still have to go out. The customers also avoid coming out in the afternoon, but we cannot go home and come back again,” Rakesh said.

According to a report in ‘The Wire’, the prevalence of informal employment in India is striking, encompassing a significant majority of India’s labour force. A substantial 92% of women and 90% of men are actively engaged in informal labour, collectively constituting more than 90% of India’s workforce.

Informal workers face minimal job security, marked by irregular incomes, no employment contracts, and vulnerability to economic fluctuations. Additionally, a lack of social protection mechanisms leaves informal workers highly exposed to financial risks and climate emergencies.

For people like Kumari, an unstable income has a major economic impact on her household. Out of four, three of her children are still in school. “I have been working like this for the past 10 years, without a break. I cannot afford it,” she said.

According to the International Labour Organization (ILO), it is projected that India will experience a reduction of approximately 5.8% in its overall labour hours by 2030 as a result of heat and humidity.

Experts believe that this decline in labour hours poses significant challenges for India, particularly given that about 90% of the workforce operates in the informal sector, with many engaged in physically demanding roles.

While Kumar has a cooler at home, it is hardly effective. The air conditioners in the houses around her shanty release hot air making it difficult for the cooler to do its work.

Heatwave to severe heatwave conditions are likely to gradually reduce over central and northwest India from May 30, the weather department predicted, adding that warm night conditions will continue to prevail in Delhi and adjoining regions till June 2.

Even though parts of Delhi witnessed a short spell of rain, it did not bring much respite from the heatwave.

Meanwhile, Delhi is also facing acute water shortage amidst the heatwave, making life more difficult for the people in the national capital.

The Delhi Congress on Wednesday appealed to the Haryana government to release more water into Yamuna from the Tajewala barrage to help the National Capital overcome the severe shortage it is facing.

State party chief Devender Yadav said that due to the heat wave, the city has been experiencing a severe water shortage and agencies must join forces and work on a war footing to tide over the crisis.

“Due to the unprecedented heat wave sweeping the national capital, the city has been experiencing severe water shortage. Various concerned agencies should join hands to tackle water shortage on a war footing, and people should also use water judiciously without wasting a drop of drinking water,” Yadav said in a statement.

According to a report by the Delhi Jal Board (DJB), he said, the daily water supply in the national capital has come down to 969 million gallons per day (MGD) against the requirement of 1,290 MGD, as he urged the Delhi government to take immediate steps to increase the supply and invest in the rain-water harvesting.