IT might come one afternoon when you’re busy buying pastry at Wenger’s in Connaught Place, New Delhi. You wouldn’t hear any shrill whistle, the advance audio that precedes artillery shells. You wouldn’t feel any pain either for being 2,000 ft below an aerially burst 1 megaton thermo-nuclear device—80 times more powerful than the Hiroshima one—dropped by an F-16 means that you would be vapour in seconds.
When it explodes, you won’t know what hit you but people in Agra and Jaipur, 200-300 km away, will see the flash.
In Hiroshima, 100,000 people died when ‘Little Boy’ fell; 9,000,000 people will perish in Delhi if that happens, according to S. Rashid Naim, a Georgia Tech University scholar, who studied precisely this scenario. Naim based his estimate on 1991 census figures when Delhi’s population was 9,118,600.
Which means roughly one in 10 persons in the capital stands the chance of survival in a nuclear attack.
Everyone within a seven km radius will be killed instantly. Everything will be reduced to rubble. That includes South Block, the PMO, the Supreme Court, Bahadur Shah Zafar Marg, Delhi zoo, Jama Masjid, AIIMS, the five-star hotels, Nehru stadium, and India International Centre, Nizamuddin and Janpath.
A 9 am office traffic at ITO would probably be a “high value” strike. Says Professor Chari, former director of the Institute of Defence Studies and Analyses (IDSA): “Ground level detonations cause more deaths due to radiation than air bursts.” Radiation effects can be felt for more than three generations.
Don’t say: “I’m not worried. They won’t get this far, and if they do I’ll take precautions.” As Bharat Karnad of the Centre of Policy Research says: “From Lahore to Delhi, as the crow flies, the flying time for a commercial aircraft is 15 minutes. Imagine what it’ll be for Ghauri.” Adds IDSA director Jasjit Singh: “Ghauri can hit Delhi within 6-7 minutes of launch. ”
A similar strike above Victoria Terminus in Bombay would wipe out around 89.36 lakh people,according to Naim. A five psi (pounds per square inch) blast would raze Nariman Point, Mantralaya, Colaba, Navy Nagar, the business centre at Worli, Mahalaxmi, Bombay Central; even parts of Dadar, Bandra and Kurla.
Researchers say it is more likely that given Bombay’s changing demographic distribution—more and more people are moving into the suburbs—an aggressor is more likely to make heavily populated Dadar the target of his attack. In which case the toll will be even higher.
The casualties in Bombay will be higher because of the structural high-rises, higher population density. The flash will be visible in Pune. Says an expert: “In Bombay and Delhi, a very high percentage of national wealth can be destroyed by fewer warheads, since high-value centres are concentrated in small areas.” Pakistan will choose long-term effects will be stunning. There will be an outbreak of leukaemia in the initial 10 years before it tapers off. All other cancers will then take over.