The second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic has deeply affected Indian states and Union Territories, and Puducherry 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 the 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 the Impact and Policy Research Institute (IMPRI), New Delhi, organised a panel discussion on ‘Rural Realities | Puducherry Practitioners’ Experiences in Tackling the Second Wave in Indian Villages’ on May 18, 2021.
This article is an excerpt of the presentation given by Anshula Mehta and the IMPRI team, who provided an overview of the Covid-19 situation in India with special reference to Puducherry to set the context for the broader discussion on the topic by the esteemed panellists.
The Union Territory of Puducherry, earlier known as Pondicherry, comprises the former French establishments of Karaikal, Mahe and Yanam, which lie scattered in South India. All the regions of Puducherry were under the French rule for 138 years and officially became an integral part of India only in 1963.
The capital of the Union Territory (UT) is situated on the Coromandel Coast of the Bay of Bengal. It is bounded on the east by Bay of Bengal and on the other three sides by Tamil Nadu. The main languages spoken here are Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam, English and French. The UT with legislature extends over an area of 479 sq km with a total population of 12,44,464 as per the 2011 Census.
Around 32% of the population of Puducherry resides in rural areas. In terms of most socio-economic indicators, Puducherry fares very well in relation to all-India averages. It ranks fifth among all states and UTs in terms of per-capita income and fourth in terms of progress on the Sustainable Development Goals.
As we know, the pandemic, both first and the second wave, has gravely affected the people of the country and Puducherry has been no exception.
During the first wave, the UT saw an accelerated phase of Covid-19 cases in the months following July and August 2020, and the numbers sustained till March 2021. In April 2021, there was a steep rise in the number of reported and active cases, as well as in deaths, which we would consider the second wave.
Here, we can see the district-wise number of cases and deaths in the districts of Puducherry: Karaikal, Mahe and Yanam. Overall, as of May 16, 2021, we can see close to 85,000 reported cases and 1,151 deaths. These are the various state-wise lockdowns and curbs, including in Puducherry.
In a move to address the rise in cases, over 4.39 lakh first doses of vaccination have been administered in Puducherry as of July 1, and the number of second doses is 67,410. The 18-45 age group has remained a non-starter and priority is being given to individuals aged above 45 because of the low stock of vaccines available with the UT government.
In terms of the availability of oxygen and medical supplies, there is enough medical oxygen available currently to meet the requirements of patients. However, hospitals ran out of bed capacity, including oxygen-supported, in May.
In terms of the UT’s health infrastructure and manpower, the Indira Gandhi Government Medical College and Research Institute (IGGMC & RI) and Jawaharlal Institute of Postgraduate Medical Education and Research (JIPMER) reached a saturation point for the treatment of virus-infected patients. The UT administration then decided to take over private medical colleges for Covid management.
With that, the issues in combating the second wave of the pandemic for Puducherry remain vaccination, oxygen and medical supplies, and health infrastructure and manpower.
In order to minimise the impact of the second wave and prepare for the 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 and healthy and prosperous Puducherry.
YouTube Video for Union Territory | Puducherry Practitioners’ Experiences in Tackling the Second wave of COVID-19 in the Indian Villages
Contributors: Ritika Gupta, Anshula Mehta, Sunidhi Agarwal, Sakshi Sharda, Swati Solanki, Ishika Chaudhary, Chhavi Kapoor, Mahima Kapoor and IMPRI Team