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.
Dr. Binayak Sundas, Assistant Professor, Centre for Himalayan Studies, University of North Bengal, Siliguri, Darjeeling, presented a case-study of Matigara, Naxalbari. He argued for the need to adopt a decentralized approach to contain the pandemic.
Highlighting a four-stage program to handle the pandemic, Dr. Binayak focused on the need to create Village Action Committees (VACs).
- These committees could better communicate the needs and priorities of a particular locality.
- Second, these VACs had to be trained in basic healthcare consultations and operating the COVID war-rooms.
- The third stage required VACs to coordinate with various philanthropist groups such as the Rotary club to set up helplines and send requisite aid to the village.
- The last and fourth step revolved around the VACs capacity to act as vigilante groups and enforce lockdowns in their locality. Kin relations, especially in rural areas would ensure that rules and necessary protocols are followed effectively.
Q & A
Answering a question on the role of political parties during election campaigns, Dr. Binayak Sundas stated that elections did contribute to the spread in West Bengal. However, it was not the only reason.
Dr. Binayak Sundas concluded the session by summarizing the ground reality of the spread in rural areas. Also, the need to constantly innovate and collaborate were the two most potent tools to emerge out of the discussions to effectively tackle the second wave.