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. Chandan Kumar Maiti, General Secretary, Advanced Society for Headmasters and Headmistresses, West Bengal, spoke about the effects of the pandemic in the Sundarbans areas. Among several notable effects were joblessness, rise in child marriages as well as trafficking, especially of the girl child.
Speaking on the divide that the pandemic has created, Mr Maiti stated that only 15% of the children can log into online classes. As a result of the digital divide, poor children were suffering from an inferiority complex. Dropouts had increased, and if the government fails to form a taskforce on this issue, then the plight of education in the country would only worsen.
High prices of treatment along with issues of social boycott prevented the rural dwellers from seeking treatment.
As for trafficking of girl child, psychological troubles, family troubles and lack of education opportunities resulted in girls getting lured by strangers into trafficking.
Mr. Maiti concluded his remarks by stating that collaboration was the only means through which the pandemic woes could be reduced. Engaging the armed forces, creating national and state level policies was an imperative to tackle the pandemic.