The second wave of Covid-19 leaving many with No source of income
The second episode of season 2 of DEFDialogue 2.0 happened in conversation with Hemlata Sharma from Aron, Guna. Hemlata works with Digital Empowerment Foundation in the region of Guna, Madhya Pradesh. She is an important worker involved with many projects on the ground.
In this conversation Hemlata gives us a picture of the situation on the ground in Guna. She talks about the status of medical infrastructure and resources. She gives us an idea about conceptions and beliefs that people on the ground have about the ongoing pandemic and how people at the local level are dealing with the situation.
Impact of COVID-19 Second Wave and its transmission
Hemlata pointed out that there were not many cases in Guna in the first wave of pandemic last year, perhaps as a positive result of lockdown. But the situation is worse this year. Virus has impacted young people with many succumbing to their death along with the old people like last year. She said that while situation seems to be bad everywhere but in Madhya Pradesh, it has been dire.
The reason behind the rapid transmission of coronavirus is a result of people not following the protocols dictated by the authorities. Since in the first wave, transmission was not this high, people became complacent. In rural areas, people just were not wearing masks and visiting crowded places, not maintaining social distance.
Awareness and COVID-19 management by Local Administration
There is a lack of awareness in general about the pandemic but more so in small towns and rural areas. Hemlata pointed out that DEF is trying to raise awareness in the local community. During her training under DEF’s Digital Sarthak program, she noticed that a lot of people outside were not wearing masks and sitting in groups playing cards. She couldn’t stop herself from trying to tell those people that it’s not safe but their reaction was that corona is for city people, it does not happen to people from rural areas. Even after efforts of urging people to wear masks, there is hesitation as people refuse to follow it as they do not understand the impact of pandemic.
There is a “Roko Toko”, Stop and Explain initiative run by the local administration to make people aware. They are also using wall painting as a tool to raise awareness. They are distributing masks, sanitizers and even food to poor people. There are still obstacles as people are not grasping the situation. The weddings are still going on, there is still a tendency to gather in crowds, not wear and follow other protocols.
Covid-19 Impact on Livelihood
Poor labourers and small shopkeepers are the worst affected, especially the daily wage workers. Upper class is doing fine but the poor receive little aid from the government. Middle class is also facing a lot of problems. The small shopkeepers who were dependent on daily income have taken a hit. Same is with daily labourers. I personally have tried to contribute even in a small capacity in which I can without
being able to get out of the house. Even though there is a lockdown in place, it doesn’t feel like a lockdown because people keep gathering in crowds and keep taking masks off. A number of these people are not positive with virus infection. But many of these people, who are positive, refuse to go to hospital. The main reason is because the faith in the medical system has collapsed. People believe that they can get better through home treatment itself. But eventually people are forced to go to hospitals since there are hardly any online consultation resources or options available in rural parts. I try to urge people to go to hospitals so that they do become a risk to others in the community.
Hemlata has been carrying out awareness campaigns through digital means. She video calls people and urges them to wear a mask and take a steam. At DEF she has learnt to use digital tools and it comes useful. She said that she is in contact with women from around 140 villages and urges them to spread awareness as well as much they can.
Reality of Covid-19 in Rural India
Last year people were scared but the impact in rural areas was less. This year they are scared but they are not following protocols as strictly because of the misconception since it did not happen last year, it won’t happen this year too and that the city people are more prone to infection. As far as the Condition is concerned, she said it is horrible but people are still not following protocols. A number of people that I knew have passed away. A family close to me lost three members, the mother, the son and the daughter in law. This time there are more young deaths. Old people are not affected in the same manner. Several young people aged between 25 to 40 have died.
Healthcare situation in Guna
Situation is extremely bad. One is not able to find oxygen cylinders, medicines or beds in hospitals. People are waiting outside the hospital for hours with the patient who is struggling for life. There is a lack of everything from oxygen to beds and medicines. A number of people are trying to make calls to influential people or politicians just to get a bed or medical facilities. In the hospital you will find two to three patients on one oxygen cylinder. In Aron, schools have converted into quarantine centers. Health centers are also being opened in villages.
I myself have taken a lot of elders to get their vaccination. Now when the 45 plus age portal was opened, I have been informing people through calls and messages to urge them to register for the vaccination. Many do not want to get vaccinated as they believe it does not do any good and people still die. We are trying to clear out their misconceptions and urging them to get vaccinated. We are working with healthcare workers to increase motivation for vaccination. There was a shortage also for vaccination earlier but now they are restocked but it keeps happening. I sent the registration link to everyone in my contacts when the 18 plus portal was opened but there was a shortage of vaccine so it got delayed. I have told people that I will personally take them for their vaccination.
Digital Empowerment Foundation’s Work and the way forward
The women in our group are making masks and we are distributing those masks. We are making sanitizers, PPE kits and distributing them as well. Lastly she added by saying that everyone should follow the Covid-19 protocols seriously such as wearing masks and keeping social distance. We should all help
the people who are not able to look after themselves. I am doing as much as I can. Many families have lost people and I want that people who are left behind with the loss should get help as they need.