The second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic has deeply affected Indian states and Union Territories and Karnataka 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. 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, organised a panel discussion on Rural Realities | Karnataka Practitioners’ Experiences in Tackling the Second Wave in Indian Villages on 21 May, 2021.
This article is an excerpt of the presentation given by Ishika Chaudhary and the IMPRI team, which provided an overview of the COVID-19 situation in India with special reference to Karnataka to set the context for the broader discussion on the topic by the esteemed panellists.
Karnataka is the largest state in South India and the sixth-largest in India, with a population of around six crores, according to the 2011 census. Originally known as the State of Mysore, it was renamed Karnataka in 1973. Karnataka has been home to some of the most powerful empires of ancient and medieval India, like the Vijaynagara empire.
The state corresponds to the Carnatic region. Its capital and largest city is Bangalore.
It is the only southern state to have land borders with all four southern Indian sister states. The state covers an area of 1,91,976 square kilometres. Kannada is the official language of the state. Karnataka is derived from the Kannada words karu and nādu, meaning “elevated land”.
Karu Nadu may also be read as Karu meaning “black” and Nadu meaning “region” as a reference to the black cotton soil found in the Bayalu Seeme region of the state.
Karnataka is divided into 31 districts: Bagalkot, Ballari (Bellary), Belagavi (Belgaum), Bengaluru (Bangalore) Rural, Bengaluru (Bangalore) Urban, Bidar, Chamarajanagar, Chikballapur, Chikkamagaluru (Chikmagalur), Chitradurga, Dakshina Kannada, Davangere, Dharwad, Gadag, Hassan, Haveri, Kalaburagi (Gulbarga), Kodagu, Kolar, Koppal, Mandya, Mysuru (Mysore), Raichur, Ramanagara, Shivamogga (Shimoga), Tumakuru (Tumkur), Udupi, Uttara Kannada (Karwar), Vijayapura (Bijapur), Yadgir.
The Karnataka tourism sector has a tagline, “One State, Many Worlds”, owing to the rich diversity of Karnataka.
61% of Karnataka’s population lives in rural areas. Karnataka’s sex ratio is 973 per 1000 population and is ranked 75th in terms of literacy rate. It is ranked 6th in Sustainable Development Goal Index and Per Capita Income, according to Census of India, 2011.
There has been a rapid upsurge in COVID-19 cases in the second wave as 1,31,787 new COVID-19 cases were reported as of 11:45 p.m. on 8 April. India registered the highest single-day spike in infections since the beginning of the pandemic. The mortality rate of Karnataka is 1.23. The second wave of COVID-19 is more stepper than the first.
The positivity rate is over 10%. In Bangalore, it took nearly 13 months to report the first 5,000 deaths due to COVID, whereas it took just the last 30 days in 2021 to report similar fatalities.
The worrying fact is that the fatality rate has increased for those below 49 years of age and cases are much higher. Karnataka reported 38,603 new cases of COVID-19 and 476 fatalities, taking the total number of infections to 22,42,065 and the toll to 22,313. Karnataka is among the top three states that are reporting more cases of COVID.
The situation is really severe. The second wave has proved to be deadlier than the first wave as cases are doubling every 8 days. There has been an exponential rise in COVID cases in Karnataka. As many as 17 districts recorded a steep rise in COVID cases.
Recent ground reports have projected that the death tally in the state is six times the reported numbers. This is a matter of grave concern, though, in the district of Bengaluru, the discrepancy was not very high. Officials admit that even the numbers available in the CRS data are only provisional as reporting of death has always been slow in rural areas.
The pandemic has also resulted in inefficient data collection across 35,000 birth and deaths registration centres in the state.
As per the State Government bulletin released for 20-05-2021, New Cases Reported: 28,869; Total Active Cases: 5,34,954; New COVID Deaths: 548; Total COVID Deaths: 23,854. Around 63,140 were vaccinated on 20-05-2021, while a total of 1,15,08,005 have been vaccinated in the state till now.
Ending days of speculation on vaccination for the 18 to 44-year age group, the state government on Thursday announced that it would commence vaccination from Saturday (22 May), across Karnataka. One-third of all COVID-19 deaths in Karnataka — since the first case in March last year — were reported in the first 20 days of May.
Lives and livelihood in the state have been deeply impacted. However, strict lockdowns helped in bringing down the total tally of cases. There have been issues in registering and data availability of testing and the number of cases.
The distribution of vaccines had not been systematic and successful due to reasons like lack of awareness among the rural population, preferential treatments at various levels and lack of facilities for online booking of vaccine slots.
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 Karnataka.
Ritika Gupta, Sakshi Sharda, Ishika Chaudhary, Mahima Kapoor, Swati Solanki, Chhavi Kapoor, Arjun Kumar and IMPRI Team