The second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic has deeply affected Indian states and Union Territories, and Gujarat has been no exception. Due to issues like lack of infrastructure and human resources, both rural and urban citizens were caged in the web of grief and misery wherein, even to see for the last time one’s loved ones 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 Impact and Policy Research Institute (IMPRI), New Delhi, organised a panel discussion on ‘Rural Realities: Gujarat Practitioners’ Experiences in Tackling the Second Wave in Indian villages’ on May 14, 2021.
This article is an excerpt of the presentation given by Sakshi Sharda and the IMPRI team, who provided an overview of the Covid-19 situation in India with special reference to Gujarat to set the context for the broader discussion on the topic by the esteemed panellists.
Gujarat houses a population of six crore people according to the 2011 Census. It has 33 districts and 18, 544 villages. Some of the important cities are Vadodra, Gandhinagar, Ahmedabad and Surat. The state is located in the Northwest region of the country and shares both land and water borders with Pakistan. Towards the East the state neighbours Madhya Pradesh, towards the North Rajasthan, and towards South, Maharashtra.
Most of the major cities are found in the more fertile regions and many of them — such as Rajkot, Junagadh, Porbandar, Bhavnagar (Bhaunagar), Jamnagar, all on the peninsula — were once the capitals of small states. The most urbanised area of Gujarat is the Ahmadabad-Vadodara (Baroda) industrial belt in the east-central region. Since the late 20th century, this area has become just one segment of an ever-expanding urban agglomeration along the highway that links the northern and southern parts of the state.
Gujarat has a sex ratio of 920, which is below the national average of 943, the literacy rate in the state is 82%, which is well above the national average. The state houses 57% of its population in rural areas. The Gujarat model of growth has been hailed as a model of growth, development and progress. The state ranks fifth nationally in the per capita index and eleventh in the Sustainable Development Goal Index.
During the first wave, reported cases from Gujarat were extremely high, the state ranked amongst the top contributors to the total national Covid-19 cases. The state had the highest case fatality rate and was ranked lowest in terms of time taken by the cases to double. By December, the state had controlled the spread of the virus where the positivity rate fell to negative 0.1%.
The second wave resulted in the states doubling time being eight days and on March 23, 1,640 people died in Gujarat. During the second wave, it remained amongst the top six states with one of the highest reporting and fatality rates. During the same time, Gujarat reduced testing facilities, rural areas were reporting 8,483 cases per day during the peak of the second wave, much higher than urban Gujarat.
In Gujarat, the fortnight-long ‘Maru Gam, Corona Mukt Gam’ programme organised by the Gujarat government to control the spread of Covid-19 in the villages was extended for five more days till May 20. Jaydrathsinh Parmar, Minister of State for Panchayats, said a total of 15,322 Covid care centres were set up within 14,236 gram panchayats.
Gujarat government on May 11, 2021, extended the night curfew in 36 cities of the state. The night curfew, which is in place from 8pm to 6am in 36 cities of Gujarat was extended by another week till May 18. Gujarat recorded 10,990 new cases of Covid-19 on May 11, 2021. According to the State Health Department, 15,198 patients recovered on the same day and were discharged from hospitals. A maximum of 3,059 new cases were reported from Ahmedabad, while Surat recorded 790 new cases.
The state during the first wave had reported the highest fatality rate and the numbers and rate did not reduce during the second wave as well. Along with this, there are instances of underreported deaths and cases in rural Gujarat. As of May 12, 2021, total deaths registered were 8,629 at a rate of 1.2%.
Meanwhile, nearly 37,00,000 lakh persons have taken the second dose of vaccine till now, out of which 2,18,513 were vaccinated in the state on May 11, 2021.
The state is facing an acute shortage of vaccines where the state halted vaccination for people above the age of 45 years in between. There have been concerns with oxygen supply where 50 people have reportedly died in the state only due to oxygen shortage. The government has planned to increase Covid-19 bed capacity by adding 15,000 new beds. There is a rise in rural unemployment and the images of migrant workers exiting Surat have further exacerbated concerns for livelihood.
In order to minimise 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 Gujarat.
YouTube Video for Practitioners’ Experiences in Tackling the Second Wave in Gujarat
Ritika Gupta, Sakshi Sharda, Ishika Chaudhary, Gby Atee, Mahima Kapoor, Swati Solanki, Chhavi Kapoor, Arjun Kumar and IMPRI Team