In continuation with the ongoing discussions on the Rural Realities during the pandemic around the country, the Centre for Habitat, Urban and Regional Studies (CHURS), IMPRI Impact and Policy Research Institute, New Delhi organized a panel discussion on “Rural Realities | North East Practitioners’ Experiences in Tackling the Second Wave in Indian Villages” on May 16, 2021.
The IMPRI team informed the discussion by locating for the event participants the situation of COVID 19 in India and North East. The team also provided an insight into the geography and Socio economic conditions of the region. The rationale was to provide the participants with an overview of the North Eastern region.
In the introductory remarks, Dr Simi Mehta, CEO & Editorial Director of IMPRI, spoke on the necessity to discuss the way rural practitioners and population were coping with the pandemic. Moreover, there was a need to focus on the way forward in tackling the pandemic.
Prof Manjit Das, Professor and Dean, School of Social Sciences, Bodoland University Assam was the next speaker. He attributed the rise of COVID 19 cases in Assam to two factors: state elections and Bihu celebrations. In Assam, Kamrup metropolitan area had the highest number of cases followed by Dibrugarh district. Further, he explained that the wide distribution of cases across the state could be linked to factors such as connectivity with outside areas, higher migrant population and different testing capacities between the urban and rural areas.
The second topic he chose to highlight was the infrastructure in hills areas. Between the first and the second wave, infrastructure had considerably improved in the hills’ region. This included public as well as private sector infrastructure.
Third, Prof Das spoke on the vaccination rate in Assam. According to data, only 3 million people had been vaccinated as against the total population of 3.33 crores. He said that the rural areas lagged behind in vaccination. He attributed this to vaccine hesitancy. Also, he stated that digital divide was preventing rural dwellers from registering on the Co-Win portal.
Like other speakers, Prof Manjit Das stated that financial aid from the government was restricted unlike in the previous wave. Also, private donors and businesses were reluctant to help the poor as compared to last year.