How Indian Villages Coped With The Pandemic?

How Indian Villages Coped With The Pandemic?

We all know how a pandemic like Covid19 affected our cities. There was a lockdown for months affecting jobs and livelihood of people. But not much is known about how it affected our villages. In a country like India, the majority of people still live in villages. Those who live in cities have no idea about the problems villagers face in their daily lives. They lack even basic facilities like water, food, and electricity.

Although villages are part of our democratic system, the government is responsible for their development and growth. But in reality nobody is serious about their well-being. There are many schemes under which a lot of financial packages are awarded to villages, but the real benefit is grabbed by the political leaders and workers and not by the common people. Local bodies have been formed but they have failed to achieve anything for the common man. In most cases, it’s middlemen who pocket the money meant for poor villagers.  

Spread of Pandemic

Covid19 virus has mutated many times during the last one year. In the initial phases, its outbreak took place mostly in rich countries like the US, UK, France, Italy, and Germany and after taking a heavy toll of human life and property, it reached countries like India. As soon as Corona started making its presence felt in our country, the government immediately announced the lockdown, and strict social distancing measures were enforced.

A lot of efforts were made by authorities to control it with great speed and vigor. Every channel was used to educate people about how it spreads, and what precautions to be taken. Every popular social media platform like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter was used to spread awareness among general people. Even Indian social media channels like Vero, Trell, and Connect app were used to circulate such messages.

Since last year, lakhs of people have lost their lives. Initially, we thought that the pandemic would last for a few months, but it surprised all of us, and continued its deadly run. However, during the lockdown, the poor migrants had to suffer immense panic and irreparable loss. Most of them had come from faraway villages, and once they lost their jobs, they had no option but to return back to their places.

No Lessons Learned 

People usually forget the age old saying that disease and enemy should never be underestimated. Last year in September, when the pandemic decreased in intensity, people thought that it’s all over. They stopped taking basic precautions like using masks, maintaining social distance, and traveling outside. They didn’t realise that it was only because of such precautions, we had defeated the epidemic. Not only common people, but the political leaders, the administration, and businessmen all forgot that the pandemic is not yet over.

They didn’t realize that the virus is still around, and if it will get another opportunity, it will strike again. Soon all kinds of activities – economic, social, cultural, and political – started as if we had finally buried the pandemic forever. The arrival of vaccines further boosted the confidence of people. They thought now they are invincible, and can return to their old ways of life.

Instead of filling the major gaps in the health services of the country and improving them, our focus shifted to things like ‘Kumbh Mela’ and assembly elections. And when the second wave of Covid19 arrived in late March, they were caught by surprise. This time the pandemic was more virulent, and overnight the number of cases crossed lakhs.

However, neither government nor authorities were as vigilant as last year, and they were late in taking appropriate measures to control the rampaging epidemic. Instead of enforcing lockdown and social distancing, authorities were busy conducting elections, and ‘Kumbh Mela.’

Missing Health Services

The pandemic spread so fast that the entire health system collapsed. The return of the pandemic exposed the reality of big hospitals in metropolitan cities. The most worrying aspect of this second wave was that the pandemic also took over entire rural areas and villages under its grip. Last year, villages and small cities were mostly untouched from pandemic, but this year there were more cases in villages.

As soon as we switched on the television channels, we were told there are lakhs of people who were showing symptoms like cold, fever, and cough. In villages, there are hardly any facilities for testing the Covid19 virus. In fact, most of the infected people were not even aware that they were victims of a deadly disease.

They were under the impression that this was all due to change of weather, and they will be cured in four-five days. But when casualties started taking place in thousands, the reality dawned upon them that they were caught in the maze of a terrible pandemic. With whatever rudimentary facilities were available in the villages, the state administration finally came into action. But it was too little and too late.

Zero Preparation

The most important question is that when the pandemic arrived one and a half years ago, what arrangements were made by the central and state governments for the people of the village. In reality, no significant efforts were made by the government to improve health facilities or spread awareness about the pandemic. Last year, when migrant laborers came back home after suffering immense mental trauma, they were quarantined outside the village to protect the local people from getting infected.

Therefore, villages mostly remained free from pandemic. By the end of December, there were only a few cases, and everybody thought that finally the Covid19 virus had gone forever. People failed to learn lessons from the history of epidemics and experts’ opinion assuming that the Corona virus has been eventually defeated. The country was least prepared as to how people would be saved if another wave came. And if infection spreads to the villages, how will it be handled?

Now that the pandemic is rapidly spreading in the villages, there is neither proper arrangement for the treatment of the disease nor for even for the cremation of dead bodies. People had no option but to bury the dead bodies in the sand of holy Ganga River.

It was not that the villagers living on the banks of Ganga River did not wish to cremate their relatives with honor, but in reality, the majority of them were so poor they couldn’t even raise money for the treatment. So, arranging money for cremation of their relatives was simply not possible for them. Ultimately, the death toll increased so much that the police and administration had to intervene.