As the second wave of covid rages across our country, engulfing the rural spaces of India, IMPRI has been organizing state-wise discussion to discuss practitioners experiences in tackling the second wave concerning rural realities. Center for Habitat, Urban and Regional Studies (CHURS), IMPRI Impact and Policy Research Institute, New Delhi, organized a panel discussion on “Rural Realities | Punjab and Haryana Practitioners’ Experiences in Tackling the Second Wave in Indian Villages” on 19 May 2021.
The Team at IMPRI initiated the discussion by contextualizing the condition of Punjab and Haryana. Through an audio-visual presentation, the geographic location, socio-economic indicators, the state of the pandemic and emerging issues of both states were laid out in front of the audience.
INNOVATIVE INITIATIVES: MASK LANGARS
Mr Dilpreet Singh Gandhi, An Advocate of High Court and Supreme Court of India, Chandigarh elucidated his social service journey. He began operating Mask langars when he became aware of the inflation in the market, and he recognized that those less fortunate than him would not be able to afford essential commodities such as masks for their families.
With the realization, he employed tailors and workers from his office and provided them with the requisite materials. Then, using his innovative idea and strategy, he began operating Mask Langars and has been able to distribute 27,000 masks in a few months.
AWARENESS: THE RURAL-URBAN GAP IN PUNJAB
In further highlighting issues that have negatively impacted the states, Mr Gandhi identified over-population and illiteracy as significant causes of concern. About the rural regions specifically, he elaborated upon how young males migrate in search of better jobs. However, with the looming lockdown, these migrants were compelled to return to their hometown villages, where ignorance regarding the situation has led to devastating conditions.
Through his personal experiences, he also emphasized that people from more urban areas such as Chandigarh have been more cautious and abide by the rules than rural regions in Amritsar. He also held the media accountable for not presenting an accurate picture of the situation on the ground.
POOR AND NEGLIGENT MANAGEMENT
He also expressed his concern with regards to increasing fatalities in the second wave.
With illiteracy being a significant concern in rural areas, he explained how citizens hailing from these areas place blind faith in their politicians.
He also criticized the decisions of religious institutions which mandate the devotees to remove their masks upon entering. In this respect, he also mentioned writing a letter to the authorities in the Golden Temple reminding them of their responsibility to public welfare. He also highlighted the disparity among the first and the second wave in the ability of the state to provide ration and other essential commodities.
CHALLENGES AND MISMANAGEMENT IN SOCIAL SERVICE
About providing free education to children, Mr Gandhi emphasized the transactional nature.
Recounting his personal experiences, Mr Gandhi elaborated upon how in many low-income households, an excess of ration had accumulated due to poor resource management. As a result, many non-profit organizations invariably ended up servicing the same area.
ROBUST LEGAL MECHANISMS
Referring to citizen’s callousness towards the rule of law, Mr Gandhi argued for more robust legal mechanisms to resolve the country’s situation today in the wake of the second wave of covid’19.
Mr Gandhi emphasized that we should undertake efforts to educate and assist those around us at the very least. He said that while not everyone can create an impact on the macro scale, people should make an effort to create immediate change around them.