As the second wave of covid rages across our country and society, 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.
SECOND WAVE IN RURAL PUNJAB: INFRASTRUCTURE, PANCHAYATS, MIGRATION AND COMMUNITY AWARENESS
Sucha Singh Gill: Professor at CRRID Punjab, at the very outset, mentioned the devastating impact on the rural regions of Punjab. He held both the government and people accountable for not taking adequate precautions despite the fair warning. He attributes the devastating impact to the poor rural healthcare infrastructure.
He mentions that a study conducted showed that while the infrastructure was in place, there was no manpower in terms of doctors and paramedical staff; in some instances, medicines were unavailable. Given the emphasis on privatization of healthcare in the Urban, Prof Gill said that the rural has suffered. The need he emphasized was ramping up testing and alleviating people’s hesitancy.
However, according to Prof Gill, a positive point on the part of the government has been to include the third tier of government, the rural panchayats, to combat the pandemic.
Additionally, he also focused on the negative impact of the lockdown on the production of commodities in rural areas such as flower growers and farmers.
The massive losses incurred by producers and restrictions on sale have also led to a wastage of produce as most of them have discarded them in public spaces out of frustration. He referred to farmer’s agitation, arguing that only negotiation can help resolve the issue. He also explained the role of urban-rural migration as a primary cause of the outbreak in rural regions.
A significant issue overlooked is the rehabilitation of families who lose their breadwinners; often, it is the civil society organization, NGOs, religious institutions who have taken the mantle from the government.
Prof Gill applauded the effort of people in overcoming bureaucratic incapability and emphasized that in the long run and on a broader scale, we need action by governing authorities such as panchayats. He concluded that it is time for the state to become more relevant, for rural health and rural education to be resurrected and learn from the lessons of last year.
Prof Gill also highlighted the state’s need not to be intolerant towards foreign funding and to implement the policy that disregards FCRA compliance requirements until the time of crisis.