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 Uttar Pradesh 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 | Uttar Pradesh Practitioners’ Experiences in Tackling the Second Wave in Indian Villages” on May 19, 2021.
This article is an excerpt of the presentation given by Nishi Verma and the IMPRI team which provided an overview of the COVID-19 situation in India with special reference to Uttar Pradesh to set the context for the broader discussion on the topic by the esteemed panelists.
About Uttar Pradesh
Uttar Pradesh is the most populous state of India. It is home to every sixth Indian, with a population of around 20 crores according to census 2011. It is the most populous state in India as well as the most populous country subdivision in the world. The state is divided into 18 divisions and 75 districts with the capital being Lucknow and financial and industrial capital being Kanpur.
The state is bordered by Rajasthan to the west, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, and Delhi to the North East, Uttrakhand, and an international border with Nepal to the north, Bihar to the east, Madhya Pradesh to the South and touches the state of Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh to South East.
The two major rivers of the state, the Ganges and Yamuna join at Triveni Sangam in Allahabad and flow further as the Ganges. The Forest cover in the state is 6.09% of the state’s geographical area.
Uttar Pradesh is divided into 4 major regions as Paschim Pradesh, Bundelkhand, Awadh Pradesh, and Purvanchal. Districts in Paschim Pradesh are Meerut, Bareilly, Aligarh, Ghaziabad, Moradabad, Noida, Hapur, and Baghpat. Bundelkhand comprises seven districts of southern UP with Jhansi, Hamirpur, Chitrakoot as major ones. Awadh Pradesh Includes major districts of Lucknow, Kanpur, and Faizabad. Purvanchal comprises the eastern end of Uttar Pradesh with major districts of Gorakhpur, Varanasi, and Prayagraj.
The proportion of the rural population in Uttar Pradesh is 78%. Uttar Pradesh is home to the largest number of poor in India. Despite improvement in the recent decade, the state has experienced slower growth and poverty reduction than the rest of the country.
The SDG score of UP is 55 and it scores low in various SDG indices of Poverty, zero hunger, good health and well-being, and quality education. Thus Uttar Pradesh still faces significant challenges in reducing poverty in its various economic and non-economic dimensions and improving security and well-being for all citizens.
COVID-19 Second Wave
According to Additional Chief Secretary, Health, 28,742 villages in the state of Uttar Pradesh reported positive cases during a testing drive in 89,512 villages. 68% of villages are free from infection. U.P. recorded 282 new deaths, according to the State Health Department as of 19 May 2021.
By March 14 on the eve of the first nationwide lockdown, it spread to 15 states and UTs with 567 infections. As of October 12, 2020, all states and UTs (except Lakshadweep) were affected with 71.2 lakh confirmed infections of which Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, and Tamil Nadu accounted for 51.2% followed by Uttar Pradesh.
The Second wave of COVID 19 in India has been devasting with a catastrophic rise in the new infections in weeks in April. The country recorded around 2.2 crores confirmed cases and 2.5 lakh deaths as of May 10. This was the first time since the start of the outbreak in the country in March last year India’s daily cases crossed the 1 lakh mark.
The utmost concern is the sudden spike in positivity rates in states with large population bases. The positive rate of UP gone up from 3.75% to 9.75% with an average adding to 16,000 active cases a day. For the country as such case fatality inched up from 0.5% to 0.55%. The R-value points a scary picture pointing that one infected person on average can infect more than 1.5 to 2 people.
While Uttar Pradesh with a population of 20 crores, managed to stave off the COVID crisis in the first wave, the state has been hit hard by the second wave of the pandemic. The state’s active case breached 2 lakh becoming the second worst-hit state in the country after Maharashtra.
The Second wave of COVID spread across the whole of the state and apart from high caseload districts of Lucknow, Varanasi, Prayagraj and Kanpur at least 56 of the total 75 districts reported over 100 cases. In the second wave, rural areas saw an equal surge. District-level data shows a surge of cases in villages and small towns in the state. In rural areas have now 65% of the cases, massive exercise to hold panchayat polls in UP coincided with a sharp surge in COVID cases in rural areas and cases soared 120% in a month.
Counting the Dead
By May 2021 the death toll in Uttar Pradesh due to COVID-19 had crossed the 20,000 benchmark. The first wave had devastated the state with 24 districts in the State have reported 110 % more deaths in the period between March to July with COVID-19 being the leading cause of fatality. To make matters worst there is a worry of underreporting by the state under official numbers. The mismatch between death tolls and the number of reported dead becomes a cause of worry.
UP villages are in a panic as COVID 19 cases surge in rural areas. In villages, there is a growing sense of alarm due to spur in not only positive cases and deaths but also incidence of cold, cough, and fever. The beleaguered health infrastructure of rural Uttar Pradesh which recently saw migrants return home from city hotspots to vote in Panchayat elections is already overwhelmed.
On vaccination coverage around 1 crore, people have been given first dose and second dose to around 31 lakh people, Uttar Pradesh is the state with the lowest vaccine doses per 100k population. Amid a surge in coronavirus cases, the Uttar Pradesh government imposed a weekend lockdown on 24 April to curb the rising number of cases in the state. The state-imposed curfew for a week is extended till 24 May.
Black fungus has hit Uttar Pradesh with 73 cases reported so far with the highest in Varanasi. Uttar Pradesh is one of the worst affected states due to reverse migration and faces a mammoth challenge of returning migrants in the COVID crisis. More than 1.2 million migrants returned to Uttar Pradesh since the nationwide lockdown was imposed.
In view of the third wave of Covid, the government can issue a “white paper” to decide the commitment of its future plans. In rural areas, the Panchayat and DM need to be made aware to strictly follow the Covid protocol in the order of cremation of a person suffering from Covid on the death of a person suffering from Covid Needed. A top-down approach with effective decentralization can lead to inclusive policymaking so as to minimize the impact of the second wave and prepare for a third wave in moving towards a healthy and prosperous Uttar Pradesh.