To discuss the ways to tackle the spread of the second wave of pandemic 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.
The discussion was further taken ahead with Mr. Rafi Malek who highlighted three critical points –
- first, lack of awareness,
- second, overconfidence,
- And third, lack of awareness.
During the first wave, the urban areas were more affected than the rural ones. It’s likely that because rural India was not affected much in the first wave, the state and the people became complacent during the second wave and thus, did not prepare for it.
Further, the patriarchal structure ensures that women are mostly busy with their agricultural duties and don’t venture out much whereas the men do. Since the men are exposed to more people and gather more information, it’s questioned whether the information the men gather is shared with the rest of their family or not. Then, Mr. Malek points out that the caste structure is still very prevalent, especially in the rural areas and especially, in Gujarat. Even if Covid-19 related facilities are set up in rural parts of the country, it’s doubtful that the marginalized sections of the society like Dalits and Adivasis, have access to the said facilities.
Gujarat has not seen a pandemic of this scale ever,, it has only ever faced natural disasters. Thus, it is critical that the State is asked whether they have prepared a roadmap or a plan to address this situation at all. It is also important to question the mandate of the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) and what role they play in such crises. Given that the rural areas in Gujarat do not adhere to social distancing norms, the State should give them a clear picture of the second wave and the deadly impact of the virus in terms of the number of cases, the death rate, and the recovery rate for them to understand the gravity of the situation.