Pandemic Penetrates Poorest Districts of India

by Pankaj Pachauri Jun 05, 2020 • 07:22 PM Views 3439

Officially, India has stopped maintaining a list of the poorest districts of the country which need the support of the Central and state governments for health, education, employment and livelihoods. These 112 districts are now called “Aspirational Districts” which are mainly crowded in the poorest of regions of Bihar, Jharkhand, UP, Chhattisgarh, Odisha and Jammu & Kashmir.

The coronavirus or COVID-19 was far away from these districts initially as they have no airports and some of them do not even have motorable roads. But after a stifling Lockdown in the country, those who belong to these districts and were in cities have started reaching back and they have taken the virus with them. On April 1, there were only 6 cases in 2 districts of Kupwara and Baramullah in Jammu& Kashmir.

The more the government tried to control the spread of the virus with stricter lockdowns, the more it muzzled economic activity, and those people at the bottom were hit the worst. They started moving towards the safety of their hometowns on foot. Several died while walking on foot or by means of unorganised travel. Their plight made global headlines and a media sensitive government then went into an overdrive to arrange transportation for them. These people have finally reached their destinations which are mostly some of the poorest regions of the country, captured by NITI Aayog’s “Aspirational Districts”. The impact of this migration is also captured in the expanding map of the country’s Corona Positive areas. 

A look at just the northern states of India shows that most of these districts are now home to COVID-19 patients. 

These districts are at the bottom of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDG9) indices. On the parameters of health, education, employment, drinking water, livelihoods, sanitation and hygiene, they are the underbelly of the world’s sixth-largest economy. The living conditions are hellish, rural inequality high and for these reasons, younger populations migrate to cities or the nearest towns. 

Many have no health infrastructure to test and cure COVID-19 patients. The future for the citizens here is bleak and certainly not aspirational. The Corona Pandemic has now reached India’s darkest areas. This problem has no silver bullet or silver lining.