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 Rajasthan 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 | Rajasthan Practitioners’ Experiences in Tackling the Second Wave in Indian Villages” on May 12, 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 Rajasthan to set the context for the broader discussion on the topic by the esteemed panelists.
Rajasthan is a state in north-western India. It comprises most of the wide and inhospitable Thar Desert. Its capital and largest city is Jaipur. Other important cities are Jodhpur, Kota, Bikaner, Ajmer, Bharatpur, and Udaipur. It is bounded on the west and northwest by Pakistan, on the north and northeast by the states of Punjab, Haryana, and Uttar Pradesh, on the east and southeast by the states of Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh, and on the southwest by the state of Gujarat. The Tropic of Cancer passes through its southern tip in the Banswara district. The state has an area of 132,140 square miles (342,239 square kilometers).
In the west, Rajasthan is relatively dry and infertile; this area includes some of the Thar Desert, also known as the Great Indian Desert. In the southwestern part of the state, the land is wetter, hilly, and more fertile. The climate varies throughout Rajasthan. On average winter temperatures range from 8° to 28° C (46° to 82° F) and summer temperatures range from 25° to 46° C (77° to 115° F). Average rainfall also varies; the western deserts accumulate about 100 mm (about 4 in) annually, while the southeastern part of the state receives 650 mm (26 in) annually, most of which falls from July through September during the monsoon season.
In terms of socio-economic indicators, Rajasthan ranks 7th by GDP calculations, 23rd by per capita income and the Human Development Index (HDI) of Rajasthan is 0.629 which is categorized as medium.
Most of Rajasthan’s population consists of Indians of various social, occupational, and religious backgrounds. The Rajputs (various clans of landowning rulers and their descendants), though representing only a small percentage of Rajasthan’s residents, are perhaps the most notable section of the population; indeed, the state draws its name from that community.
COVID-19 Second Wave
In the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, 40 percent of the rural cases are reported from rural areas in Rajasthan. Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot had directed officials for posting 1,000 doctors and 25,000 nursing staff in rural areas.
In the first wave of COVID, Rajasthan was among the top seven states reporting most cases. In the second wave, the Total number of deaths was 5825. Rajasthan has the highest positivity rate with 35% and a recovery rate of 96.4%.
The vaccination rate is highest in Rajasthan at 70%. Rajasthan is also the state which has reported the third-highest wastage of vaccination after Haryana and Assam. Two Oxygen Generation plants received by the Government of India as COVID assistance from the UK reached Rajasthan. One of these plants will be set up at Satellite Hospital in Ajmer. The second plant will be set up in the Jhalawar district.
After setting up these plants having 500-liter capacity, the state will get extra medical oxygen for COVID patients. Covid vaccination for the 18-44 age group is likely to gain momentum as the state has received 3.50 lakh vials of Covishield, which have already been distributed in all 33 districts. State Government has given its nod to purchase Covaxin besides being in touch with Russia to import the Sputnik vaccine.
A two-week-long Lockdown had been imposed in Rajasthan from 5 am on 10 MAY 2021. The lockdown will be effective till 24th May. Except for medical emergencies, no inter-district, intercity, city to villages, or villages to city travel will be allowed during the lockdown. All places of worship will remain closed. Food, vegetable, and fruit shops are allowed to open from 6 Am to 11 AM. All types of private and government transport are not allowed except emergency services in the state. MNREGA works have been postponed to prevent infection in rural areas.
Counting the Dead
Worrying reports have come from the Ground Report from the state where death tolls do not match the ground realities. Not just the fatality rate there is also an underreporting of COVID-19 cases which have turned negative overnight. The state throughout the second wave reported an increasing positivity rate and yet the rate of testing reduced drastically.
Water shortage is a major issue in the future as out of 1.01 crore rural households, only 19.61 lakh are getting water supply. A major focus has to be on health infrastructure to tackle the subsequent waves of this pandemic.
There has to be proper management of oxygen and vaccine supply. Rajasthan is using the MLA fund to meet the cost of Vaccination Drive and is also considering importing vaccines for the state.
Holistic, community-based interventions are the need of the hour. Interventions should be consistent with the development programs, and not be disease or symptom-specific. The state has to strengthen the primary care health centers and integrate traditional medicines. Awareness has to be built through social media.
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 Rajasthan.