To discuss the ways to tackle the spread of the second wave of pandemic in rural areas, the Centre for Habitat, Urban and Regional Studies (CHURS) and Impact and Policy Research Institute (IMPRI), New Delhi organized a Panel Discussion on “Rural Realities: Gujarat Practitioners’ Experiences in Tackling the Second Wave in Indian villages“ on May 14, 2021.
The panelists for the session included Mr. Umashankar Yadav, Founder-Director at Ahmedabad International Literature Festival; Ms. Hiral Dave, Program Head at Cohesion Foundation Trust; Ms. Poonam Kathuria, Director, Society for Women’s Action and Training Initiative – SWATI; Mr. Rafi Malek, Director at Centre for Development in Ahmedabad; Dr. Deepak Acharya, Consultant at Development Support Agency, Gujarat and State Medicinal Plant Board and; Ms. Shushila Prajapati, Program Manager, ActionAid Association.
The discussion was introduced by the moderator of the panel Dr. Mansee Bal Bhargava, an entrepreneur, researcher, and educator from the Eco-Development and Research cell in Ahmedabad.
The discussion primarily focused on the impact of the second wave in rural India, which comprises nearly 60% of the population, and the need to acknowledge the privilege of living in urban areas, especially during the pandemic.
During the presentation, it was established that Gujarat had the highest case-fatality rate and the lowest doubling time, in the first wave of the pandemic. Gujarat’s test positivity rate was the third-highest in the nation, after Maharashtra and Delhi. As of now, during the second wave, the cases in Gujarat are doubling every 8 days and as of March 23, 2021, a total of 1,641 people died in the state. However, Gujarat is leading in vaccination with 69,23,008 people vaccinated.
There are some emerging issues, though, in Gujarat, that need to be addressed. Firstly, there is a shortage of vaccination because of which vaccination for those 45 years and above was halted for 3 days. Secondly, there is a shortage of oxygen because of which more than 50 patients reportedly died in Navsari, Surat, Banaskantha, and Rajkot in 10 days. Thirdly, there is a need for an improvement in health infrastructure. The government must increase Covid-19 bed capacity by 15,000 new beds. And lastly, rising rural unemployment needs to be addressed immediately.
After the presentation, the panelists of the discussion gave their views on the second wave of the pandemic, its impact on the rural areas, and what policy decisions need to be taken to address the second wave efficiently.