Ritika Gupta, Swati Solanki, Sakshi Sharda, Ishika Chaudhary, Arjun Kumar
The second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic has deeply affected Indian states and Union Territories and Maharashtra has been no exception. Due to issues like lack of infrastructure and human resources, both rural and urban people were caged in the web of grief and misery wherein even to see one’s loved one last time who succumbed to Coronavirus became an act of privilege.
Focusing on the Rural Realities around the country during the pandemic, the Centre for Habitat, Urban and Regional Studies (CHURS) and IMPRI Impact and Policy Research Institute, New Delhi organized a Panel Discussion on “Rural Realities | Maharashtra Practitioners’ Experiences in Tackling the Second Wave in Indian Villages” on May 13, 2021.
This article is an excerpt of the presentation given by Sakshi Sharda and the IMPRI team which provided an overview of the COVID-19 situation in India with special reference to Maharashtra to set the context for the broader discussion on the topic by the esteemed panelists.
Maharashtra is a state in Western India. The state is divided into six economic units Pune, Nasik, Amravati, Nagpur, Mumbai, and Aurangabad. These regions are divided into 36 districts. The state has 43,722 villages and 42 cities. According to the 2011 census the state houses a total population of approximately 11 crore people.
On the northwest is the state of Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh on the north and east, Andhra Pradesh on the southeast, and Karnataka is on the southwest. Maharashtra was formed in 1960 when the Marathi and Gujarati linguistic areas of the former Bombay state were separated. Bombay (Mumbai) city is the capital of the state.
The Western Ghats form the source of several major rivers of Maharashtra, notable among them being the Godavari and the Krishna. The rivers, along with their tributaries, flow eastwards into the Bay of Bengal, irrigating most of central and eastern Maharashtra.
Maharashtra is rich in ore deposits. Granite, Quartzite, Conglomerates are found in the basement regions of the Konkan rivers. Nanded is another region where pink Granites are found. Kami of Nagpur region is famous for coal. The Sahyadris holds several beautiful hill stations in their lap, which are beautiful and refreshingly serene.
The state ranks 5 in the nation based on Per Capita Income and Tenth in the Sustainable Development Goal Index. It houses 54 percent of its population in rural areas which is below the national average, it has a lower sex ratio than the nation at 923. The literacy rate in the state is higher at 82 percent.
COVID-19 Second Wave
During the first wave of the COVID-19 Pandemic that the State of Maharashtra was amongst the top contributors to the caseload in India. From August 1, 2020, to December 13, 2020, the testing in the state of Maharashtra increased which corresponded with a decline in overall COVID-19 cases and the positivity rate fell to 6.8 percent.
Since March 1, 2021, there has been an active rise in the COVID-19 cases in India and as many as 1,97,842 cases were recorded as of April 15, 2021, and Maharashtra has been a major contributor of the same. The state has also made a negative RT-PCR report mandatory for those entering the state. The test report will have to be issued within 48 hours before the time of entry into the state.
Maharashtra has also been the frontrunner in imposing lockdowns since the month of April to tackle the second wave. The state has issued guidelines to break the chain of COVID spread. The Maharashtra Government has extended the current Covid-19 restrictions in the state till 7 am on 1st June.
Maharashtra Government has temporarily suspended the vaccination drive for the 18-44 age group due to a shortage of vaccines. Maharashtra’s Health Minister Rajesh Tope said the state cabinet has decided that all the doses purchased for this age group will now be diverted for the 45 categories.
Counting the Dead
Since March 1, 2021, the Second Wave had hit the country, Maharashtra was again a leading contributor. The Mumbai Metropolitan region was leading in the second wave, the case positivity rate is 26 percent and has approximately lead to the death of 72,000 people.
The state was a front runner in responding to the oncoming national disaster and had announced lockdown as early as April. The guidelines in the State are called ‘Break the Chain’. The state shows a rise in rural caseload which continued to grow throughout the month of May and early June. Vaccination Drive in the State remains lower than most states in India and the national average.
There is an acute vaccination shortage. To tackle the same the State has issued an international bid to acquire one crore vaccine doses. To tackle the shortage further the quota from 18-44 age group has been diverted for vaccinating the 45 plus age group. The state has also tackled the oxygen shortage by importing oxygen from Qatar. The state’s health care facilities during both the peaks were severely strained and during the second wave, the symptom of Black Fungus added to the concerns.
Good Governance is the need of the hour. Civil society organizations should carry a communication drive and create awareness at the rural level. Robust data is needed to come with an action plan. A multi-pronged strategy can go a long way. We need to create an active public surveillance system to minimize the impact of the second wave and prepare for a third wave in moving towards a healthy and prosperous Maharashtra.