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 Punjab 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 | Punjab and Haryana Practitioners’ Experiences in Tackling the Second Wave in Indian Villages” on 19 May 2021.
This article is an excerpt of the presentation given by Kashish Babbar and the IMPRI team which provided an overview of the COVID-19 situation in India with special reference to Punjab to set the context for the broader discussion on the topic by the esteemed panelists.
The state lies in the Northern part of the country, to the west it shares an international border with Pakistan. To the North of the State lies Jammu and Kashmir, to the North East lies the state of Himachal Pradesh, to the South East Haryana, and to the South Rajasthan. The city of Chandigarh is the shared capital of Punjab and Haryana.
The name Punjab comes from two Persian words Panj meaning five and abb meaning water, signifying the five rivers that flow through the state is Beas, Jhelum, Chenab, Ravi, and Satluj. According to the 2011 census, the population of the State is 2.77 crore wherein the rural population constitutes 117.2 Lakh. The state has five divisions of Patiala, Rupnagar, Jalandhar, Faridkot, and Firozpur. Punjab has 81 Tehsils and 12,278 villages.
Referred to as the ‘bread basket’, the state has an agrarian economy. The state ranks 12 in the Sustainable Development Goals Index among other states and ranks 10 according to Per Capita Income. The state houses majority of its population in rural areas at 63 percent which is very close to the national average of 69 percent. The sex ratio of the state is very low at 895. The literacy rate of the state that is 76 percent also lies very close to the National literacy rate of 73 percent.
COVID-19 Second Wave
During the Pandemic the state has born a very heavy burden of the national caseload through the State still fared better than many other states. Post peak of the first wave at the end of September, the State had approximately 1 Lakh cases and approximately 3000 fatalities.
As of 18 May 2021, the total number of patients who tested Positive is 504586. The number of active cases is 73616. The total number of Deaths reported is 12086. Total COVID-19 Vaccinated with 1st dose (Healthcare + Frontline Workers) is 829931. Total COVID-19 Vaccinated with 2nd dose (Healthcare + Frontline Workers) is 240117. Total above 45 Vaccinated with 1st dose is 2603790. Total above 45 Vaccinated with 2nd dose is 434026.
As the Covid cases registered an upswing and the Punjab government set up a control room to monitor supply, demand, and distribution of the life-saving gas in the last week of April, the demand for oxygen in Punjab has doubled in a fortnight as of 11 May 2021, from 152 metric tonnes to 304 metric tonnes on Sunday.
Counting the Dead
The rural regions of Sangrur and Haryana during the second wave have shown alarming fatality rates. The cases in rural areas were doubling every 10 days. Punjab has the highest number of cases of the UK variant and Mutation N501Y. The State has a case fatality rate of 2.4% which is higher than the National Average. More worrying is that the case fatality rate is higher in rural areas of the state.
Punjab extended complete lockdown till 12 May. The state was one of the 12 states that began vaccination immediately in the month of May for the age group 18-44. Approximately 41 lakh people had been vaccinated. The state faced concerns of migrant labor where the pandemic has severely hit the livelihood. The health infrastructure in rural areas is excessively stressed and there is a lack of awareness of the COVID-19 health protocols.
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 Punjab.