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An Overview Of The Catastrophic Second Wave In Karnataka

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This post is a part of YKA’s dedicated coverage of the novel coronavirus outbreak and aims to present factual, reliable information. Read more.

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.

About Karnataka

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.

Source: IMPRI #WebPolicyTalk

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.

Source: IMPRI #WebPolicyTalk

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.

Source: IMPRI #WebPolicyTalk

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.

COVID-19 Second Wave

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.

Source: IMPRI #WebPolicyTalk

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.

image 19
Source: IMPRI #WebPolicyTalk

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.

image 20
Source: IMPRI #WebPolicyTalk

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.

Counting Dead

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.

Emerging Issues

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.

image 21
Source: IMPRI #WebPolicyTalk
  • Vaccination: Suspension of the vaccine drive to the 18- 44-year age group. The order has been placed for three crore doses of vaccines (two crore doses of Covishield and one crore doses of Covaxin).
  • Oxygen: Acute Shortage. The state is setting up 127 oxygen generating units.
  • Health Infrastructure and Manpower: The state government has stated that in the entire state, 45,754 beds supported by oxygen, 5,305 ICU beds and 4,019 beds with ventilators were available as of 5 May, 2021. However, the requirement projected by the Central government is 66,333 oxygen supported beds, 13,969 ICU beds and 8,382 ventilator beds.

Way Forward

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

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

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A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

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A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

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A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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