Covid-19: Rural Response to Lockdown

Every country has devised its own strategy to fight covid-19. They are combating this pandemic by optimum utilization of facilities and resources available to them. The challenges are myriad but the developing countries will take a lot of time to recover from their shaking economy. This is not a battle of minds but a battle of strength. This is the time when the niceties have to go out of the window and a strict procedure has to be followed. There is a difference between how rural and urban areas are responding to the lockdown, although stringent measures have to be followed in rural areas due to limited healthcare facilities but the situation is otherwise in most of the states. There have been initial lapses and failures in tracking, isolating and treating patients but now the system has to be strengthened. Until the authorities come up with cure, the world can take pains towards little care.

Given the fragile state of economy and frail healthcare system, India should have taken the warning signs seriously in January instead of a nationwide lockdown from March 20. The response to the pandemic would have been better. The first infection in India was detected in January and the response came too late. Had the warning signs been taken seriously, there would have been other alternative to hastily thought out national lockdown. Steve Hanke, Professor of economics at Johns Hopkins University has said that government hospitals will run out of beds in rural India if only 0.03 percent of population is hit by virus. The healthcare system in rural India is in a state of despair and panic. The staff has to face critical shortages of medical supplies, testing kits and PPEs and the doctors have to work at greater personal risk. Uttar Pradesh which is densely populated, equivalent to that of Brazil has only eleven testing facilities as of April 10. Apart from this, people in rural areas are taking rumours seriously. A huge slice of rural people in Punjab are using the methods suggested by social media. The biggest challenge is that of slums, how can we educate a person about quarantine living in congested room with ten people? The government has to be more inclusive about the marginalized sections of the society. India ranked 102 in global hunger index and the unemployment rate is higher than in 45 years, this pandemic has a potential to take India into economic catastrophe killing more people than Covid-19 itself.

Unfortunately, people in rural areas are not strictly following the lockdown. A common notion among Kashmiris, “yi chu peer weir, aes kya kari” is the other pandemic that we are fighting. People still make visits to their neighbours and relatives instead of repeated warnings. My own parents attended a funeral some days back citing the reason,” kori hinz jaai”. These things have to be avoided at such a critical juncture even if parenting the parents is required. We need to understand why certain steps are being taken like washing hands and distant socializing. Also, it is high time we stop stigmatizing victims and their families; this virus does not respect age, gender or nationality. Viruses do not discriminate but people do. Let us not fritter away our energies on discrimination and fight for equity and equality both for rural and urban population.

(Azra Mufti is a doctoral student of psychological Management and an author of two books)