As the second wave of covid rages across our country, engulfing the rural spaces of India, IMPRI has been organizing state-wise discussion to discuss practitioners experiences in tackling the second wave concerning rural realities. Center for Habitat, Urban and Regional Studies (CHURS), IMPRI Impact and Policy Research Institute, New Delhi, organized a panel discussion on “Rural Realities | Punjab and Haryana Practitioners’ Experiences in Tackling the Second Wave in Indian Villages” on 19 May 2021.
The Team at IMPRI initiated the discussion by contextualizing the condition of Punjab and Haryana. Through an audio-visual presentation, the geographic location, socio-economic indicators, the state of the pandemic and emerging issues of both states were laid out in front of the audience.
MISTRUST IN THE GOVERNMENT CITIZEN RELATIONSHIP
Prof Mahabir Jaglan: Professor from Kurukshetra University, Haryana, elaborated on how in the second wave, compared to the first, the rural regions in Haryana are now bearing the brunt of the pandemic. He also referred to farmer’s agitation as an example of the mistrust developed among the citizens towards the state machinery and their dismissal of covid as a government strategy for disempowering them. In the second wave, he mentions that the NCR region was more adversely affected and that a crisis for Oxygen has also happened.
The government’s focus on urban areas and neglect for the rural has further compounded the problem. Multiple big villages have fallen victim to the pandemic, and a significant reason has also been the lack of testing. He also mentioned that the government’s measures have primarily been symbolic.
The healthcare infrastructure for rural areas exists but has not been utilized while new isolation centers with no proper facilities are being set up. There is a huge gap between government action and actual change at the grassroots level.
RURAL EMPLOYMENT IN HARYANA
Prof Jaglan mentioned rural employment in Haryana as a significant cause of concern. He elaborated upon how statistics clearly demonstrate the serious nature of the problem and how covid has further deteriorated the situation, especially for the informal sector. He believes that post covid statistics will show that while post the first wave the situation had improved, the second wave has completely halted improving the employment rate.
Prof Jaglan talked about how through the protests in Punjab and Haryana, people from rural regions of Haryana have learnt from their counterparts in Punjab how communities can find solutions to their shared struggles. He emphasized that this is important to ensure that villages don’t isolate themselves and suffer and instead attempt to use community action as a collective solution to the problem.
Professor Jaglan emphasized on the lack of political will in Haryana as a probable cause for the worsening situation.
Prof Jaglan also talked about eliminating the mistrust between the government and non-profit organizations, given that they are an integral part of civil society and work towards the betterment of society. He also emphasized the need to rejuvenate the public healthcare infrastructure in rural regions through adequate manpower and provisions of medicines.
The need to focus and revitalize public education systems was also highlighted.
Prof Jaglan suggested that instead of NEP 2020, the government should work towards strengthening existing systems.