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.
Poor Health Infrastructure in Rural Areas
Dr. Samir Kumar Das, Professor Political Science; Director Institute of Foreign Policy Studies, University of Calcutta, Spoke about rural Bengal, Dr. Samir pointed out the two things that were given about the rural areas that:
- rural health infrastructure was poor compared to urban infrastructure and,
- it is difficult to ramp up infrastructure in a short period of time.
In a situation characterized by poor infrastructure and vaccine hesitancy in rural Bengal, it is imperative to ensure that the government controls the spread of the virus to prevent the villagers from hospitalization.
Highlighting experience of the previous wave, Dr. Samir provided four ideas through which the pandemic could be controlled in rural areas.
- First, urban areas had to be isolated from rural areas to stem the spread of the virus into non-affected regions.
- Second, the government should utilize databases recorded by religious institutions to enumerate the migrant workers.
- Third, community quarantine centers have to be re-opened to isolate the incoming workers into the villages.
- Last, rural initiatives such as rural clubs and neighborhood communities had to be mobilized to compensate for the deficiencies of government functioning. Citing the example of a Grameen library in the Sundarbans as a best practice to ensure continuation of learning, Dr. Samir stated that there was a need for more such initiatives.
Regarding questions on how best to tackle an apparent third wave,
There was a need to be proactive to catch up with the virus and stem its spread.