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An Overview Of The Catastrophic Second Wave In Punjab

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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 Punjab 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 last time one’s loved ones who succumbed to the coronavirus became an act of privilege.

Rural Realities | Punjab and Haryana Practitioners’ Experiences in Tackling the Second Wave in Indian Villages

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 | Punjab and Haryana Practitioners’ Experiences in Tackling the Second Wave in Indian Villages’ on May 19, 2021.

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

About Punjab

The state lies in the northern part of the country; it shares an international border with Pakistan to the West. To the North of the State lies Jammu and Kashmir, to the North-East lies the state of Himachal Pradesh, to the South East, Haryana, and to the South, Rajasthan. The city of Chandigarh is the shared capital of Punjab and Haryana.

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Source: IMPRI #WebPolicyTalk

The name Punjab comes from two Persian words: ‘Panj’ meaning five and ‘abb’ meaning water, signifying the five rivers that flow through the state. i.e. Beas, Jhelum, Chenab, Ravi and Satluj. According to the 2011 census, the population of the State is 2.77 crore wherein, the rural population constitutes 117.2 lakh. The state has five divisions of Patiala, Rupnagar, Jalandhar, Faridkot and Firozpur. Punjab has 81 tehsils and 12,278 villages.

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Source: IMPRI #WebPolicyTalk

Referred to as the ‘bread basket’, the state has a predominantly agrarian economy. The state ranks 12 in the Sustainable Development Goals Index among other states and ranks 10 according to Per Capita Income. The State houses a majority of its population in rural areas at 63%, which is very close to the national average of 69%. The sex ratio of the state is very low at 895. The literacy rate of the state that is 76% also lies very close to the national literacy rate of 73%.

Second Wave Of Covid

During the pandemic, the State has born a heavy burden of the national caseload, though it still fared better than many other states. Post teh peak of the first wave at the end of September, the State had approximately 1 lakh cases and 3,000 fatalities.

image 35
Source: IMPRI #WebPolicyTalk

As of May 18, 2021, the total number of patients who tested positive was 504,586, the number of active cases were 73,616 and total deaths reported were 12,086. The number of people who have been vaccinated with their first dose of Covid-19 (including healthcare and frontline workers) was 829,931 and those with both the doses were 240,117.

Further, the population above 45 who have been vaccinated with the first dose was 2,603,790 and those vaccinated with second wave was 434,026.

Screenshot 2021 06 27 at 9.38.34 AM
Source: IMPRI #WebPolicyTalk

As the Covid cases registered an upswing and the Punjab government set up a control room to monitor supply, demand and distribution of the life-saving gas in the last week of April, the demand for oxygen in Punjab doubled in a fortnight as of May 11, 2021, from 152 metric tonnes to 304 metric tonnes on Sunday.

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Source: IMPRI #WebPolicyTalk

Counting The Dead

The rural regions of Sangrur and Haryana during the second wave have shown alarming fatality rates. The cases in rural areas were doubling every 10 days. Punjab has the highest number of cases of the UK variant and mutation N501Y. The State had a case fatality rate of 2.4%, which was higher than the national average. More worrying is that the case fatality rate is higher in rural areas of the state.

Emerging Issues

Punjab extended a complete lockdown till May 12 at the onset of the second wave. The state was one of the 12 states to begin vaccination immediately in the month of May for the age group 18-44. Approximately 41 lakh people had been vaccinated. The state faced concerns of migrant labour where the pandemic has severely hit the livelihood. The health infrastructure in rural areas is excessively stressed and there is a lack of awareness of the Covid-19 health protocols.

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Source: IMPRI #WebPolicyTalk

In order to minimise the impact of second wave and prepare for the upcoming 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 to order to move towards healthy and prosperous Punjab.

YouTube Video for Practitioners’ Experiences in Tackling the Second Wave in Punjab

Contributors: Ritika Gupta, Sakshi Sharda, Ishika Chaudhary, Kashish Babbar, Tarishi Chaturvedi, 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.

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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.

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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 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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