The rural areas are severely affected by this lockdown. Millions of migrant worker lost their jobs in the cities when the government imposed the nationwide lockdown on March 25th.
When these migrants moved to their respective home they must’ve been carriers of the novel coronavirus. The coronavirus is now intruding in the country’s vast hinterland. The villages in the nation have very little access to health care. Out of the total 1.3 billion population of India, nearly 70% are from the villages. They are struggling to go through this prolonged economic slowdown in the country.
The epidemic had isolated the cities like the national capital New Delhi and financial centre Mumbai exposing the rural areas to this virus. The most number of labourers were from the states of Bihar, Assam, Jharkhand, Odisha and Uttar Pradesh. However, the virus in these places had spread at a very high rate.
In rural India, under-funded health care infrastructure and poor living conditions provided very easy access for the virus to grow. India is the fourth most affected country in the world and the rise in the number of cases in rural India could push it higher.
For instance, in the agricultural Ganjam district of Odisha, the Choudhari Tikarapada village around 5000 people were safe and free of the coronavirus till May end. However, when 200 labourers entered it after losing their jobs in Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu, the scenario changed. The migrants were asked to quarantine for seven days outside the village and 13 were tested positive declaring it as a containment zone and stopping the movement people there.
Sadananda Sahu, a villager said that if more tests are conducted in the village more infected people would be found. It is impossible to maintain social distancing and hygiene in a district like Ganjam. The people there are living in a state of fear. It comes under one of the poorest districts with a fragmentary health structure. They’ve to go to cities to access a hospital.
According to the most recent World Bank data, India has spent only 3.7% of the total gross domestic product on health care in 2016, making India stay at the bottom of 25 countries globally. It leaves the hospitals at risk as the number of cases may flood in and they might not have the required facilities.
In Rajasthan, all 33 districts were affected when more than 1.1 million migrant labourers came back to their hometown. The Health Minister of Rajasthan, Raghu Sharma said, “They came to their villages from highly infected places. Thus it spread in the villages of Rajasthan.” They’ve set up quarantine facilities in each village, arranged senior-level officials to monitor the patients and formed village panels to check upon the people movement. The state now has enough isolation beds, ICU rooms and PPE kits to deal with the situation. They also tried to ramp up their testing capacity, Sharma added.
One of the major reasons for this virus spread is that the migrants were sent back to their hometowns. If the government would’ve made arrangements for them to stay, the spread of this virus could’ve been controlled. Prabhat Jha, professor at the University of Toronto said, “Had the lockdown been a true lockdown, with workers not being kicked out of their urban places of residence, the problem would not have spread.”
In Jharkhand, 1500 confirmed cases were registered out of which only 117 were from the urban centres and the rest belonged to the rural areas. This also happened because of the return of the migrant workers. On June 11th, Nitin Kulkarni, secretary of the Health Department said, “The authorities have worked to stop the spread by isolating infected people at a quarantine centre.”
According to the government filing in the Supreme Court, around 5.7 million migrants were shifted to various destinations across the country by special trains and then 4.1 million were sent by road transport.
In an Instagram post, Bollywood actor Manoj Bajpyee expressed his happiness. He said that he has installed a Kachchi Ghani plant, that will allow the unemployed youth that is forced to travel to big cities for job opportunities to benefit from this. It is also essential to start a business in a small town so that the workers do not have to leave their homes to earn a living. They should have access to jobs in their very vicinity.
However, there are still many villages that haven’t yet received the required protection kits for COVID-19 and many are yet to even have COVID Centres. Slowly but gradually the government is trying to provide the villages with everything that they can. It would just be beneficial if they speed up this process before we lose any more lives.
Image Credits- Deccan Herald