The panel discussion on rural realities in Uttar Pradesh during the Covid-19 second wave highlighted the working experiences of various professionals especially in the wake of the second wave of COVID in Indian villages and its impact on people’s lives, particularly, in terms of health and hunger. It was organized by Center for Habitat, Urban and Regional Studies (CHURS) and of “Impact and Policy Research Institute, New Delhi” on 19th May, 2021 by the joint efforts of “Parmarth Sevi Sanstha” (Uttar Pradesh).
The focal point of the discussion was the need to focus on the rural reality of the state of Uttar Pradesh and its related issues.
This program was initiated by Ritika Gupta (Assistant Director) of IMPRI Institute of Impact and Policy Research. Also, by Dr Simi Mehta, who while welcoming the panelists, said that the goal of this is a comprehensive discussion on the situation of second wave of COVID in the state of Uttar Pradesh and the efforts being made at the ground level by the stakeholders.
Prof. Amita Singh (Chairman, NAPSIPAG Center for Disaster Research, Delhi, Retd., Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU)) took over the conduct of this forum, acting as a moderator. Other eminent panelists included Khalid Choudhary ( Regional Manager, (Uttar Pradesh), Action Aid India, Neelam Verma (State Coordinator (Uttar Pradesh), Indo-Global Social Service Society (IGSSS)), Vivek Awasthi (Executive Director, U.P. Volunteer Health Association).
Dr. Sanjay Singh (Secretary, Parmarth Samaj Sevi Sansthan, Jhansi), Lenin Raghuvanshi (Founder and CEO, People’s Vigilance Committee on Human Rights (PVCHR), Varanasi), Saurabh Lal (CEO, Model Village), Saurabh Singh (Chief) Functionary, Inner Voice Foundation Community Arsenic Mitigation and Research Organization (CAMRO),Sandeep Abasaheb Chavan (Project Lead, Tata Trusts, Gorakhpur, Homoeopathic Doctor, Public Health Professional), Dr. Hira Lal (Indian Administrative Servant and Consultant, Model Village) were some of the other speakers during the discussion.
Issue of Hunger
Saurabh Singh (Chief Functionary, Inner Voice Foundation Community Arsenic Mitigation and Research Organization (CAMRO)) explained the operational work (free distribution of food and medicines) being done through his organization, how they are mainly in Bihar. and Uttar Pradesh – providing food security to the slum dwellers and deprived sections like beggars etc. of these two states.
The point to be noted here is that the “Hunger issue” which has emerged as a basic problem (Varanasi and Chandauli areas of the state – particularly affected) in this second phase of Covid after the health issue.
At the same time, the caste-based political decisions of the state government have also restricted the reach of government schemes to certain sections, thankfully, the coordinated efforts of some people, social media and civil society rather than the government, have brought these problems into the mainstream of the society. A healthy debate has started.
Both the urban and rural areas of the state are badly troubled by the second wave of Covid, only some influential people of the society are getting the benefits of government departments etc. At the same time, he condemned the government mentality for not giving proper recognition and support to the NGOs by the state governments and said that organizations like ours are always struggling to serve the poor class due to their limited resources.
Also, he shared some examples of government inaction, how the public faced problems with infrastructure facilities (Bihar and Uttar Pradesh – lack of health workers in both the states and non-functional government hospitals in some villages of Uttar Pradesh in real sense) benefits are denied. Therefore, in this direction, basic medical facilities should be started by making coordination among various committees at the village level.
Fear is rife in the rural areas of the state, misleading government statistics of death of teachers across the state during Panchayat elections (only 3 teachers died of corona during election duty), Covid patients and their relatives in government hospitals, etc. are some such real concerns. Which presents an ugly image of the state government.
Therefore, while discharging the fundamental duties of the governance system, the State Government should proceed in harmony with the village public committees and heads, while playing the role of a responsible, accountable and transparent body. Also, even in cities, the state government should adopt a collaborative approach with NGOs. The state government should take a positive initiative in the direction of good governance, by making the public well aware of the purpose of revenue models like Namami-Ganga etc.
Ultimately, he suggested the revival and activation of rural panchayat sub-committees and also advocated working together for various laws to show administrative commitment to the public, such as food security, right to education and right to information etc. There is a need to work at the village level under the coordinating strategy.