Opening the session on Rural Realities- West Bengal, Dr. Simi Mehta, CEO & Editorial Director at IMPRI, welcomed the panelists to the session. Since the beginning of May2021, the Centre for Habitat, Urban and Regional Studies at Impact and Policy Research Institute (IMPRI), New Delhi, had organized a series of sessions to discuss the rural ground realities, speaking to rural practitioners and their ways and means of tackling the second pandemic wave. On May 25, 2021, the discussion was centered on “Rural Realities | West Bengal Practitioners’ Experiences in Tackling the Second Wave in Indian Villages”.
Following the welcome by Dr. Simi,The IMPRI team informed the discussion by locating for the event participants the situation of COVID 19 in India and West Bengal. The team also provided an insight into the geography and Socio economic conditions of the state. The rationale was to provide the participants with an overview of the state of West Bengal.
Mr Sankar Halder, Founder President, Mukti, presented a picture on the reality of South Bengal. He started his discussion by talking about the cyclones that had devastated the region since November 2019. Coupled with the two COVID 19 waves, the dwellers in the region were facing massive devastation of livelihoods. Typically, the residents of South Bengal depended upon agriculture, fishing and government aid to survive.
Mr. Sankar, further highlighted the demographic picture of the region, where 30-35% of the residents were migrant workers. Lockdowns in cities coupled with natural disasters such as cyclones posed a livelihoods’ challenge for the locals. Migrant workers were unable to return to the cities for work.
Mr. Sankar attributed four factors to the worsening COVID crisis in Bengal:
- crowding due to Assembly elections,
- inability of cities to effectively tackle the new wave,
- lack of infrastructure in rural areas and,
- social stigma attached to the virus.
Talking about the work being done by his organization, Mr. Sankar said that Mukti was involved in the distribution of oximeters and oxygen concentrators to make up for the deficiencies in public health infrastructure.