To discuss the ways to tackle the spread of the second wave in rural areas, the Centre for Habitat, Urban and Regional Studies (CHURS) and Impact and Policy Research Institute (IMPRI), New Delhi organized a Panel Discussion on “Rural Realities: Gujarat Practitioners’ Experiences in Tackling the Second Wave in Indian villages“ on May 14, 2021.
The panelists for the session included Mr. Umashankar Yadav, Founder-Director at Ahmedabad International Literature Festival; Ms. Hiral Dave, Program Head at Cohesion Foundation Trust; Ms. Poonam Kathuria, Director, Society for Women’s Action and Training Initiative – SWATI; Mr. Rafi Malek, Director at Centre for Development in Ahmedabad; Dr. Deepak Acharya, Consultant at Development Support Agency, Gujarat and State Medicinal Plant Board and; Ms. Shushila Prajapati, Program Manager, ActionAid Association.
The discussion was introduced by the moderator of the panel Dr. Mansee Bal Bhargava, an entrepreneur, researcher, and educator from the Eco-Development and Research cell in Ahmedabad.
This was initiated with Ms. Hiral Dave who spoke about how livelihood was tremendously disturbed in rural areas, as a result of the second wave of the pandemic. There was a vast difference between the first and second waves since the first wave did not exactly reach the rural areas. The primary issue is that migrants who were working in the cities had no choice but to return to their villages. Additionally, there was no agricultural income as well since it’s summer and MNREGA isn’t efficiently functioning either.
In addition to livelihood, food security poses a major challenge as well. As for the pandemic, villagers do not have access to basic amenities that the privileged do in urban areas like basic medicines, RT-PCR tests, and oximeters. Since this strain is affecting the lungs even more so, oximeters are a necessity to monitor oxygen levels and thus, take necessary precautions for treatment.
Thus, organizations like Cohesion Foundation Trust, are working to help people with some of these issues. NGOs are stepping up to help with these amenities, rations, and other facilities. It is important to point out that single women, like widows and unmarried, are being affected the worst since they are unable to earn their own livelihoods. Thus, it is imperative to link with government schemes and develop and adopt specific models as well as create new models for livelihood.
There is also a need to eradicate and debunk myths and false ideas regarding the safety of vaccinations which is also something the NGOs in rural areas have been striving to do. Since NGOs are close to the community, their representatives provide them with relevant information through voice messages, pamphlets, and other reading materials. It is also very important to work closely with the Panchayat and the district since they are influential stakeholders of the community.