In continuation with the ongoing discussions on the Rural Realities during the pandemic around the country, the Centre for Habitat, Urban and Regional Studies (CHURS), IMPRI Impact and Policy Research Institute, New Delhi organized a panel discussion on “Rural Realities | North East Practitioners’ Experiences in Tackling the Second Wave in Indian Villages” on May 16, 2021.
The IMPRI team informed the discussion by locating for the event participants the situation of COVID 19 in India and North East. The team also provided an insight into the geography and Socio economic conditions of the region. The rationale was to provide the participants with an overview of the North Eastern region.
In the introductory remarks, Dr Simi Mehta, CEO & Editorial Director of IMPRI, spoke on the necessity to discuss the way rural practitioners and population were coping with the pandemic. Moreover, there was a need to focus on the way forward in tackling the pandemic.
Awareness Building Mechanisms
Dr. Sunil Kaul, Founder and Managing Trustee, The Action Northeast Trust, Assam, shared his observations on Assam. He stated that the number of positive cases diagnosed increased by almost sixty times in the past few weeks in Assam. The positivity rate too increased from 0.3 % to 7-8% within a month. Further Dr. Kaul stated that unlike the Kamrup metropolitan area where cases increased 42 times, the rest of Assam saw higher increase in cases. This reflected that the rural areas bore the brunt of the pandemic in excess to urban areas.
He observed that home isolation was a good method of tackling COVID. However, isolation in homes and community centers had to be based around strengthening the ASHA workers and creating awareness among them. Further, informal practitioners had to be utilized to spread awareness among the people. Material translations in local languages was another imperative to increase awareness at the ground level. Speaking on mental health program, Dr. Kaul referred to the state government program called ‘Monon’ and remarked on its salience.
Concluding Remarks and Q & A
Dr. Kaul spoke on the need to ensure sentinel surveillance prevalent to catch the spread of any infections. Though the northeast had relatively lesser infection rates compared to the rest of India, there was a need to remain vigilant about future looming threats.
On a question relating to a rise in cases of black fungus in India, Dr. Sunil Kaul provided two reasons that could explain this situation. One was the irresponsible use of steroids. Second could be usage of industrial oxygen instead of medical oxygen. The latter are produced in highly sterile conditions as compared to industrial oxygen.
Dr. Arjun Kumar asked a question related to the positivity rate in the North East and whether this parameter varied differently from the rest of the country. To this Dr. Kaul replied that as long as testing is confined only to specific urban centers and district headquarters, the chances of missing patients was higher. Dr. Kaul stated the need to increase testing in the rural areas using the help from ASHA workers.