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 Odisha 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), IMPRI Impact and Policy Research Institute, New Delhi and Orissa Economics Association, Odisha organized a Panel Discussion on “Rural Realities | Odisha Practitioners’ Experiences in Tackling the Second Wave in Indian Villages” on May 15, 2021.
This article is an excerpt of the presentation given by Sunidhi Aggarwal and the IMPRI team which provided an overview of the COVID-19 situation in India with special reference to Odisha to set the context for the broader discussion on the topic by the esteemed panelists.
Odisha formally known as Orissa is a southeast Indian state. It is the second-largest state by area and has 38 districts. It neighbors West Bengal and Jharkhand to the North, Chhattisgarh to the West, and Andhra Pradesh to the South. It has a coastline of approximately 485 km along the Bay of Bengal. According to the 2011 census, Odisha is the seventh-largest state by population. The state houses the third-largest Scheduled Tribes in India.
Odisha is the bastion of rich cultural heritage with its historical monuments, archaeological sites, traditional arts, sculpture, dance, and music. From time immemorial Odisha attracts a large number of scholars, artists, and tourists.
Odisha houses 83 percent of its population in rural areas. The sex ratio in the state is well above the national average at 979. The State has a low literacy rate of only 73 percent. The state ranks fifteenth nationally in the Sustainable Development Goals index and twenty-second based on Per Capita Income.
COVID-19 Second Wave
The first case of COVID-19 was reported in the State on March 16, 2020. The total number of cases rose to 2 Lakh in 2020 alone. In May, the cases doubled in approximately 2 weeks’ time. The state has been testing 50,000 samples every day. A total of 42 lakh tests have been carried out in the State of which 36.6 percent of cases have tested positive. More than 90 percent of the people have recovered.
The highly infectious double mutant B.1.617 strain of SARS-CoV-2 has triggered the ferocious second wave in Odisha where around 1.8 lakh cases and 239 deaths have been recorded in the last month. Around 50 percent of the samples sequenced in the State in April have been found to harbor new mutations of B.1.617. Of the 34 samples collected from different districts between April 2 and 28, as many as 17 were found to have two lineages of the B.1.617 variant that is fast expanding its footprint across the county.
A large number of people belonging to different tribal communities of Odisha have been hit by the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, prompting a concerned state government to pay special attention to safeguard them.
Counting the Dead
The state ranks fourth in the country as per the highest positivity rate. The state has been declared as a hotspot state, though the positivity rate remained below the national average. More than 2200 people have died with the highest fatality in the Angol District. In May 2021 the State reported more than 15 deaths per day due to COVID-19. The state’s mortality rate is 0.5 percent which is below the national average.
Odisha has only imposed a partial lockdown which did not control the rising COVID-19 cases in the State. Unlike the first wave this time the decision lay with the state authorities. District-level data also shows a rise in the rural cases reported from Odisha. The State is facing a huge rural-urban divide where the rural cases were reported 4 times the urban caseload. In Odisha only 1.8 beds per 10,000 population are available.
In order to minimize the impact of second-wave and prepare for a third wave, issues of lack of oxygen, health infrastructure, and vaccination, which has also added to the financial burden on most rural as well as urban households, need to be addressed in moving towards healthy and prosperous Odisha.