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An Overview Of The Catastrophic Second Wave In North Eastern States

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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 all Indian states and Union Territories, and the North-East region has been no exception. Due to issues such as 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 one who succumbed to Covid became an act of privilege.

North East
Focusing on 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 | North East Practitioners’ Experiences in Tackling the Second Wave in Indian Villages’ on May 16, 2021.

This article is an excerpt of the presentation given by Indranuj Pathak and the IMPRI team, who provided an overview of the Covid-19 situation in India with special reference to the region of North-East to set the context for the broader discussion on the topic by the esteemed panellists.

About The North-East

The North-East, as we know, holds strategic importance in India as it is connected to the mainland with a small chicken neck corridor of 22 km. It contributes to the country’s economy and provides access to natural resources.

It comprises eight states: Sikkim, Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram, Nagaland, Meghalaya, Manipur and Tripura. The region shares international boundaries to the North with China, to the North West with Bhutan, and to the East with Myanmar.

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Source: IMPRI #WebPolicyTalk

Assam ranks highest in the region, with more than 80% of the population housed in rural area, and Mizoram has less than 50% of the population residing in rural areas. Meghalaya has the highest sex ratio in the region at 989, while Sikkim has the lowest sex ratio, well below the nation average at 890. Arunachal Pradesh has the lowest literacy rate in the region at 65% and Mizoram ranks highest with 91% literate population.

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Source: IMPRI #WebPolicyTalk

Sikkim tops the region and is second in the country, both in terms of Sustainable Development Goals and the per capita income. Manipur has the lowest rank according to per capita income, ranking 30 in the nation, and Mizoram performs poorly in the Sustainable Development Goals, ranking 25 in the country.

Second Wave Of Covid-19

As of March 13, 2021, total Covid-19 cases in the region were 4.78 lakhs and total deaths were 3,809. Assam had an affected population of approximately 3 lakh due to Covid-19. The first wave hit the region in September. The new variant, local festivals and elections led to the rise in cases and the second wave in the region. Arunachal Pradesh has approximately 21,000 people who were affected by the second wave. Manipur faced a similar fate.

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Source: IMPRI #WebPolicyTalk

Tripura is the second-most affected state in the region. Meghalaya has been affected less in terms of percentage of population. Due to opened tourism, cases reached 22,000 that was previously unimagined in the region. Mizoram has an affected population of 8,499. Sikkim’s management was hailed as a model because it was one of the last states to get affected in the first wave.

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Source: IMPRI #WebPolicyTalk

On May 12, 2021, the Assam government ordered shutting down of all offices, religious places and weekly markets for 15 days in urban and semi-urban areas of the state, besides banning people’s movement from 2 pm to 5 am in the wake of the rising Covid-19 cases. Seventy one people died of Covid-19 in the State on May 12, 2021, while 5,657 new positive cases were reported. The Covid-19 positivity rate in the State was at 8.8% during this period. The State Health Department, like in other states, prioritised second dose beneficiaries in order to ensure that they get the second jab on time.

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Source: IMPRI #WebPolicyTalk

Meghalaya continued to report over 400 fresh cases for the fourth straight day on May 12, 2021, while eight more fatalities on the day pushed the death toll to 250. The state also recorded 314 recoveries taking the number of people discharged to 17,354. The Meghalaya government is unhappy with the poor response of people over 45 years of age towards the Covid vaccination drive.

Deputy Chief Minister Prestone Tynsong told reporters after a review meeting on May 12 that the vaccination coverage for the targeted group stands at a mere 37-38%.

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Source: IMPRI #WebPolicyTalk

Nagaland registered the highest single-day spike of 338 new cases and nine deaths on May 12, 2021. Active cases were 3,297 while a tally going up to 16,890. Summer break of both government and private schools have extended till May 21. The School Education Department order says the decision taken in view of the current pandemic situation. Regional Ayurveda Centre, Dimapur, began distribution of AYUSH 64 tablets to Covid patients under home isolation. Distribution continued for 20 days.

Screenshot 2021 06 27 at 12.32.05 PM
Source: IMPRI #WebPolicyTalk

Emerging Issues

Lives and livelihood in the North Eastern States have been deeply impacted. With tourism taking a hit and cities being closed to contain the pandemic the economy of the states is in turmoil.

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Source: IMPRI #WebPolicyTalk

The CoWin application seems to be not working amongst many users. Secondly, glitches in the website have been reported while entering the security code even if vaccine spots were available. There also exists a digital divide between the digitally literate and illiterate, and  the underserved.

Public places such as railway stations, bus terminals are not adequately sanitised as per the guidelines and thus lead to the spreading of the virus. Along with this, the public has not been following the mandates given by the administration. No accountability of relief funds is also making it difficult to understand and acknowledge relief management.

The Way Forward

Social media has been a great tool in the region and minute-to-minute information was disseminated among people though social media sites. Some administrative measures in the region include Corona Pratinidhi Dol, which was to make space for community participation at the grassroots level in Assam.

Antflip, an online delivery application, directly joins suppliers with consumers. Arunachal Pradesh provided telemedicine services and set up call centres. The North-East region is facing an eminent vaccine shortage and the CoWin application has experienced too many glitches in the region.

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Source: IMPRI #WebPolicyTalk

Stricter penalties for those violating effective implementation of Covid protocols is needed in order to minimise the impact of the second wave and prepare for a third wave. Issues of lack of oxygen, health infrastructure and vaccination, which have also added to the financial burden on most rural as well as urban households, need to be addressed in moving towards a healthy and prosperous North-East region.

YouTube Video for Practitioners’ Experiences in Tackling the Second Wave in North East

Contributions By: Ritika Gupta, Sakshi Sharda, Ishika Chaudhary, Indranuj Pathak, Mahima Kapoor, Swati Solanki, Chhavi Kapoor, Arjun Kumar and the 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.

Read more about her campaign. 

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.

Read more about the campaign here.

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.

Read more about the campaign here.

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 Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’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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