Lockdown and Grievances of Rural Areas

Half of the year has passed, fighting and battling novel coronavirus. It has turned our lives to a new normal. All of a sudden it seems as if we are part of a horror movie. The COVID-19 virus which is affecting every aspect of human existence has killed millions of people and millions of lives are at risk and in misery. It has created a global health crisis that has a deep impact on the way we perceive our world in our daily lives. Fighting an unknown, unseen enemy with no definite cure in sight is a challenging task for the human race. The lockdown which is initiated by the government to prevent the spread of the virus is literally making life hard for the life of the citizens, especially in the rural areas.

The problems, the obstacles, and challenges of rural life are not really as easy as one thinks. Generally speaking, rural areas are often forgotten in many cases. When the lockdown was imposed all over India as a measure to contain the spread of the coronavirus pandemic, it seemed that rural areas were once again left to their own devices. The hassles and nuisance faced by people in rural areas and the people living in urban areas seem to be incomparable.    

When the lockdown was imposed, people from rural areas who migrated to urban areas were gravely affected. The migrants who moved to towns and cities with the purpose of getting jobs and better lives lost their job and now they are compelled to go back to their own hometown with no other options. The return of these people has posed a special problem to the head of the village and the concerned authorities because they have to be quarantined and establishment of quarantine centers for the returnees is not an easy task. And some of the biggest threats are - What would these people be doing? Where are they heading to? - in terms of employment, and also- What would be the source of income for the families as the bread earners in the family have lost their job and came back home? How do they meet the essential requirements if the nationwide lockdown continues for a longer period? Is there any option that can be provided by the concerned authorities of the State?

About seventy percent of the rural households are farmers. They depend on agriculture for livelihood. The Life of a farmer, in the rural areas during the pandemic is really depressing as they are facing lots of problems, challenges, and obstacles. This season is the time for harvesting a variety of vegetables, fruits, and other plantations but due to this pandemic, transporting of the harvested products is impossible. Meanwhile, there is no demand nor supply due to the lockdown. Therefore, the farmers whose livelihood depends on agriculture income have been hit hard and their harvested products are getting stagnant due to lockdown, which leads to a great hike of prices and loss on all the products due to untimely demand which is enormously effected on their economy. Agriculture as the lifeline for most of the people in rural areas has led to a life of misery.

The life of rural people is crucial because unlike the cities and towns with their disproportionately high concentration of super-specialty hospitals and doctors, the number of healthcare infrastructure and healthcare providers in these regions is abysmally low. Tension also arises among rural people because there is no special equipment for the diagnosis and for further treatment. Insufficient health care workers and problems like limited access to necessities makes the situation vulnerable in rural livelihoods. Literally, the health care system is not adequate or prepared to fight the pandemic in rural areas. There are hardly any pharmacies around the corner and in a handful of those pharmacies there’s a shortage of medicine and antibiotics, so the needs and requirements of the people are not satisfied.

Apart from problems being faced by the medical team, there are people who are less concerned about the pandemic because at least 80% of the rural people are either illiterate or neo-literate, therefore, the ignorant of the people have failed to maintain the decorum of the pandemic. Most people are more concerned about their livelihood rather than being concerned about their health. They give a deaf ear to social distancing or the lockdown being imposed by the respective village councils.

Due to the covid19 pandemic, social distancing is being maintained. Education as a result has moved to online learning which includes the use of language apps, virtual tutoring, video conferencing, etc. The use of technology has enabled students to get new experiences, acquire knowledge, and has taken education to the next level. However, taking online classes has become a huge problem for the students especially residing in rural areas. Poor internet connectivity and irregular electricity are some of the main factors responsible for depressing the students to continue their online classes. As cited above, there are also another group of students who want to study but are deprived because their parents can not afford to buy gadgets like mobile phones, laptops, computers, etc. for their children's education. Most of the parents living in rural areas are just hand to mouth survivors. The mental health of students for those who couldn’t avail and access to these facilities is of great concern and needs to be rectified with immediate effect. Thus, the concerned authorities of educational institutions should understand the grievances of the students keeping in view the fact that only a few families can afford appropriate homeschooling and access to technology to aid online learning during the lockdown period.

Degree of Thought is a weekly community column initiated by Tetso College in partnership with The Morung Express. Degree of Thought will delve into the social, cultural, political and educational issues around us. The views expressed here do not reflect the opinion of the institution. Tetso College is a NAAC Accredited UGC recognised Commerce and Arts College. The editors are Dr Hewasa Lorin, Dr Aniruddha Babar, Nisha Dahiya and Meren. For feedback or comments please email: dot@tetsocollege.org