In continuation with the ongoing discussions on the Rural Realities 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 | Goa| Practitioners’ Experiences in Tackling the Second Wave in Indian Villages” on May 28, 2021, as the second wave of coronavirus pandemic is engulfing the length and breadth of our country, India, and hitting the heartland of our country which is the rural areas.
Giving a snapshot of socio economic condition of Goa and current pandemic situation in the Union Territory a presentation was given by IMPRI researchers Swati Solanki and Mahima Kapoor. They informed the participants about the state’s geographical and socio-economic status and gave insight into the situation of COVID-19 in India and Goa, highlighting pertinent emerging issues.
Various Differentials of COVID 19 Impact
Moderating the session Dr. (Advocate) Albertina Almeida, Lawyer, Human Rights Activist, Goa, talked about differentials of COVID 19 impact.
She stated that there are different sections that have been impacted differently in the current pandemic crisis. It is important to look at how government is responding to COVID 19 but also it is equally important to see the health consequences in terms of other indices leading to comorbidities. Also under the cover of COVID 19 there are lot of macro projects being sanctioned with suppression of freedom of speech which should be looked down upon.
The pandemic has given us wide ranging issues from lack of access to basic information about COVID in rural areas to unorganized testing facilities, issues of availability of medicines and oxygen. There also exist issues of accessing basic livelihood facilities during the pandemic in the state. She stated that the situation in goa is pretty alarming with high positivity rates. There also exist implications of post COVID issues to people who have recovered from the pandemic. The state has to improve on providing access to health facilities to the most vulnerable sections of the society.
She further added that Goa being a tourist state has not been able to curtail cross border movements of the tourists in the state. The government failed in dealing simultaneously the economic and health perspective worsening pandemic situation in the state.
Highlighting the failure of coordination level between various authorities she said that COVID is a pandemic and is dealt under National State Disaster Management Authority with bureaucracy at one level and health infrastructure at another level and there seems to be no appropriate coordination between the two with tendency of blaming each other.
Need for proactive and resilient measures
Dr. Maria Aurora Couto, Indian Writer, Educationalist from Goa, highlighted on the pandemic situation in the state. It is important to strengthen local bodies to reach up to village level to create awareness among people regarding the pandemic and precautionary measures to be taken.
Goa’s battle with COVID: From bad to worse
Mr. Kumar Kalanand Mani President, Peaceful Society, Goa, said that it is very sad and painful to see that beautiful Goa not only in terms of nature but in terms of society, people and governance also is ruined. Seeing the intercourse of fourteen months of imprisonment in the name of COVID management he said that he has not seen any government officials approaching people or organizations for offering help or creating awareness about the pandemic.
There exist two different scenarios of what is happening in the hospitals and what is happening on the grass root level. Elucidating his point further he stated that first phase of the pandemic had very little impact on the state where as the second phase is spreading like a fire. There is very serious community spread of the pandemic with no actions taken from the government side to reach people.
The plight of helpless families in rural areas is a common scenario in the state with no support given from the government. The state should look into providing livelihood facilities to the poor families during time of pandemic. He highlighted the fact that scenario at village level is extremely bad in the state.
Women and COVID-19
Dr. Sabina Martins Founder, Bailancho Saad, A Women’s Collective, Managing Trustee, Saad Alashiro, A trust of Bailancho Saad; Convenor; Goa Bachao Abhiyan; Activist; Panel Member, Taluka Lok Adalat, Goa, highlighted some of the issues faced by women in the state during second wave of the pandemic. Firstly there was unawareness in rural areas about pandemic due to lack of information provided by the state in remote areas and to women who were illiterate and cannot access digital facilities. Elucidating further she said that there exist whole section of vulnerable society who were not connected through information channels.
Stating the fact on lack of access to health care facilities she commented that when members of the family in rural areas fell ill they were unable to access health facilities due to limited transport facilities as the testing centers were located far away from remote areas. She highlighted the fact that providing transport facilities in rural areas were not taken in to account thereby increasing the risk factor of spread.
Commenting on impact of pandemic on women caregivers of the family she stated that generally the caregivers in the family are women and they being effected due to inappropriate access to health care has resulted in larger problem. She also highlighted the issue of lack of information about vaccination centers along with vaccination shortage in rural areas.
She further dwelled upon the existence of myths regarding the pandemic and vaccination in rural areas refraining people from getting vaccinated. She underlined that the pandemic saw increased cases of domestic violence and response in crimes related to women has not been impactful.
Various implications of COVID 19
Stressing upon livelihood issues she pointed that in the second wave people faced huge livelihood crisis with no organizations and government facilities to support them. She also raised the issue of discrimination faced by daily wage workers with no compensation and leaves given to them as compared to government workers. She further stated there has been existence of COVID stigma and discrimination towards people getting effected.
Talking in terms of heath infrastructure she said it has been extremely poor with even helpline numbers not properly managed resulting in chaos in providing accurate information to the people. She pointed that there has been mismanagement and lack of preparedness at every level related to providing medical facilities to people.
In terms of policy perspective she dwelled upon that the government took the pandemic very lightly with no proper enforcement rules for maintaining social distancing. There also was carelessness observed at political level during elections.
Mr. Kumar Kalanand, Mani President, Peaceful Society, Goa, Stated the fact that there exist no package and relief for rural poor, small farmers and workers surviving on daily wages Mr. Kumar said that the situation is worse. The horticulture sector is badly affected which is impacting the life of the rural poor which needs to be looked upon. Also the livelihood issues faced by the rural sector needs to be take in to consideration.
He further stated immediate actions to be taken are mass testing of COVID cases, arrangement of proper isolation facilities for poor, proper follow up of COVID positive and post COVID cases, activation of public distribution systems.
Dr Sabina Martins pointed that for information to reach last mile. there is need of a mechanism in place to provide information at micro level. Also there is need of having accommodation for people who are not infected to make them isolate from infected people at one point.
Keeping her point on domestic violence, she underlines that there should be implementation of a mechanism to address domestic violence where physical intervention is possible.
Showing her concern on lack of community support and states negligence towards marginalized communities she said that state should take full responsibility of protecting marginalized communities and providing them with basic livelihood amenities during pandemic with support of civil society organizations. She further added that there should be adequate budgetary allocation towards health facilities to cope up with the pandemic in a better way.
She also supported appropriate compensation for the people who have lost their lives or suffered COVID due to inadequate government capabilities and its negligence.