The panel discussion on rural realities in Uttar Pradesh during the Covid-19 second wave highlighted the working experiences of various professionals especially in the wake of the second wave of COVID in Indian villages. It was organized by Center for Habitat, Urban and Regional Studies (CHURS) and of “Impact and Policy Research Institute, New Delhi” on 19th May, 2021 by the joint efforts of “Parmarth Sevi Sanstha” (Uttar Pradesh).
The focal point of the discussion was the need to focus on the rural reality of the state of Uttar Pradesh and its related issues.
This program was initiated by Ritika Gupta (Assistant Director) of IMPRI Institute of Impact and Policy Research. Also, by Dr Simi Mehta, who while welcoming the panelists, said that the goal of this is a comprehensive discussion on the situation of second wave of COVID in the state of Uttar Pradesh and the efforts being made at the ground level by the stakeholders.
Prof. Amita Singh (Chairman, NAPSIPAG Center for Disaster Research, Delhi, Retd., Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU)) took over the conduct of this forum, acting as a moderator. Other eminent panelists included Khalid Choudhary ( Regional Manager, (Uttar Pradesh), Action Aid India, Neelam Verma (State Coordinator (Uttar Pradesh), Indo-Global Social Service Society (IGSSS)), Vivek Awasthi (Executive Director, U.P. Volunteer Health Association).
Dr. Sanjay Singh (Secretary, Parmarth Samaj Sevi Sansthan, Jhansi), Lenin Raghuvanshi (Founder and CEO, People’s Vigilance Committee on Human Rights (PVCHR), Varanasi), Saurabh Lal (CEO, Model Village), Saurabh Singh (Chief) Functionary, Inner Voice Foundation Community Arsenic Mitigation and Research Organization (CAMRO),Sandeep Abasaheb Chavan (Project Lead, Tata Trusts, Gorakhpur, Homoeopathic Doctor, Public Health Professional), Dr. Hira Lal (Indian Administrative Servant and Consultant, Model Village) were some of the other speakers during the discussion.
Specific Administrative Set-Up in Uttar Pradesh
Initiating this panel discussion in Hindi, Prof. Amita Singh invited all the interlocutors for discussion mainly around two aspects –
1. What work has been done by the state government of Uttar Pradesh in view of the second wave of COVID and what could they have done better. It was seen that in some areas the government capacity was good, but results were not satisfactory. Thus, the reasons for this and the ineffectiveness of the initiatives by the state government must be analysed.
2. Why did the state government not encourage participation of various civil and community organizations and other non-governmental organizations in this critical time and what were their obstacles.
In the next course of discussion, Ms. Nishi Verma, a member of the team of ‘Institute of Impact and Policy Research’, gave a presentation on the second wave of Covid-19 and the infection rate, availability of health facilities, challenges of vaccination and other related issues etc.
With reference to the state of Uttar Pradesh, under brief presentation, Sharing a comparative study with the help of demographic, socio-economic, etc. indicators including updated data, made us aware of the ground reality of this state and invited all the visitors to share their views for a meaningful discussion, wishing the state prosperity.
Future Plans and Way Forward in Uttar Pradesh
Prof. Amita Singh (Chairman, NAPSIPAG Center for Disaster Research, Delhi, Retd., Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) concluded the last phase of this panel in a very meaningful way, appreciating the expressions of all the panelists.
She also highlighted the main points of the discussion:
- The government has sufficient resources, but there is a lack of political will power and vitality towards their proper implementation. Condemning the repeated gimmicks (population of the country is a hindrance in solving any new problem) by politicians, she said that it is only a useless tactic to divert the attention of the public from all the basic issues. The allocation of government funds does not appear to be used at the grassroots level.
- Unresponsive character of the governance system wherein the Government is not able to explain how it implements government schemes (eg – how to convert government ration and food grains into food, Ujjwala gas scheme, abolish MNREGA etc.).
- Are the marginalized sections of the society getting the benefits of medical facilities in the health sector or not? In this direction, the state governments will have to introspect and focus on social transformation by rising above caste and party politics.
- At the same time, there is a need to strengthen the ethics and integrity of public servants in the governance system as they play the role of real service provider at the local level.
In conclusion, Prof. Amita Singh ended the panel-discussion by giving five-point valuable suggestions (short term and long term) to deal with this global disaster. They are as follows –
1. The state government needs to take a policy decision as soon as possible by meetingwi to all the opposition parties and playing a co-operative and coordinating role in the interest of the state.
2. In all rural areas, arrangements should be made for persons with symptoms of Covid at a designated place for quarantine/isolation etc. (by putting up tents and equipped with all basic medical facilities) by government efforts.
3. In this direction, in order to prevent Covid, the government should decide on basic medical facilities (free availability of soaps for hand hygiene) and free distribution of food (on the lines of Amma Canteen in Tamil Nadu state).
4. The State Governments need to establish a liaison between the Panchayat and the “State Disaster Management Authority” so that the accountability of the government can be fixed in real terms. If the State Disaster Management Authority is dormant, it needs to be revived so that plan wise transparency can be ensured (details of plans/schemes are given under the timeline prescribed under the National Disaster Act, 2005).
5. Last resort – By forming brigades of NGOs and Yuva Shakti (using their energy positively), the challenges of Covid can be eliminated by establishing direct coordination with the districts of the states with their administrative authorities.
In view of the third wave of Covid, the government could also issue a “white paper” to decide the commitment of its future plans.