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 Puducherry 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 | Puducherry Practitioners’ Experiences in Tackling the Second Wave in Indian Villages” on May 18, 2021.
This article is an excerpt of the presentation given by Anshula Mehta and the IMPRI team which provided an overview of the COVID-19 situation in India with special reference to Puducherry to set the context for the broader discussion on the topic by the esteemed panelists.
The Union Territory of Puducherry, earlier Pondicherry, comprises the former French establishments of, Karaikal, Mahe, and Yanam, which lie scattered in South India. All the regions of Puducherry were under French rule for 138 years, and in 1963 it officially became an integral part of India.
The capital of the Union Territory is situated on the Coromandel Coast of the Bay of Bengal. It is bounded on the east by the Bay of Bengal and on the three sides by Tamil Nadu. The main languages spoken here are Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam, English, and French. The Union Territory with legislature extends over an area of 479 sq. Km. The total population of the Union Territory is 12,44,464, as per the 2011 Census.
In terms of the socio-economic indicators, around 32% of the population resides in rural areas. In terms of most indicators, Puducherry fares very well in relation to all-India averages. It ranks 5th among all states and UTs in terms of per-capita income, and 4th in terms of progress on sustainable development goals.
COVID-19 Second Wave
As we know, the pandemic, both the first and second waves have gravely affected the people of the country, and Puducherry is no exception.
During the first wave, the Union Territory saw an accelerated phase of COVID-19 cases in the months following July and August 2020 and the numbers were sustained till March 2021, and then since April 2021, there has been a steep rise in the number of reported and active cases, and in deaths, which we would consider the second wave.
Here we can see the district-wise number of cases and deaths in the districts of Puducherry, Karaikal, Mahe, and Yanam. Overall as of 16th May 2021, we can see close to 85000 total reported cases and 1151 deaths. These are the various state-wise lockdowns and curbs, including in Puducherry.
In the move to address the rise in cases, that over 1.8 lakh first doses of vaccination have been administered in Puducherry, and the number of second doses is close to 50000. 18-45 age group has remained a non-starter and priority given to 45+ age group because of low stock of vaccines.
In terms of Oxygen and Medical Supplies, there is enough medical oxygen available currently to meet the requirements of patients, however, hospitals have been running out of bed capacity, including oxygen-supported, in the last few days.
In terms of Health Infrastructure and Manpower, Indira Gandhi Government Medical College and Research Institute (IGGMC & RI) and Jawaharlal Institute of Postgraduate Medical Education and Research (JIPMER) came to a saturation point for the treatment of virus-infected patients. The administration has decided to take over private medical colleges for COVID-19 management in the Union Territory.
With that, the issues in combating the pandemic and second wave for the Union Territory of Puducherry remain vaccination, oxygen and medical supplies, and health infrastructure and manpower.
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 and healthy and prosperous Puducherry.