Reflections on Resilience: LOCKDOWN INSIGHTS FROM THE HINTERLAND, by Pradeep Poddar, Kumod Kumar Das and Eklavya Prasad

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FEAR, PANIC, HOPE
LOCKDOWN INSIGHTS FROM THE HINTERLAND

Pradeep Poddar, Kumod Kumar Das and Eklavya Prasad, Megh Pyne Abhiyan

How are the communities you work with coping with the lockdown? What are their main concerns now? Are you able to be in contact with them and what are you hearing?

We reached out to the communities we work with and inputs have come from diverse social groups residing in the following locations:

  • Kairi village, Domat panchayat, Gaunaha block, Pashchim Champaran district
  • Naya Tola Bhishambharpur, Bhagwanpur panchayat, Nautan block, Pashchim Champaran district
  • Sahorwa, Ghongepur panchayat, Mahishi block, Saharsa district
  • Badi Madarpur, Madarpur panchayat, Gogri block, Khagaria district
  • Govindpur, Madarpur panchayat, Gogri block, Khagaria district
  • Jan Muhammad, Madarpur panchayat, Gogri block, Khagaria district
  • Suryahi, Ramnagar panchayat, Phulpara block, Madhubani

Kairi village

  • Migration is one of the key sources of sustained livelihood and that is just not across the country but also across the border. Lockdown has affected the following workforce:
    • Those who are stuck in the village and are unable to travel for work; those who had migrated are presently stuck in their respective locations of work, without any source of livelihood; those who had migrated returned home just prior to the lockdown. This has led to enhanced expenditure at the household level with limited or no inflow of money.
  • People are taking up work at lower wages in desperation to earn something.
  • Accessing forest area for firewood has been curtailed leading to a household crisis.
  • Psycho-social impact because coronavirus is being interpreted as a dangerous epidemic, transmittable disease and causing widespread destruction.
  • We have been able to contact them telephonically, though could not reach to all our contacts.

Nayatola Bhishambharpur

  • Worried about the family members who are stranded in different parts of the country.
  • Household-level conflicts.
  • Unavailability of local livelihood opportunities.
  • Unable to purchase the basics, for instance, vegetables, lentils, soap, washing powder due to limited financial resources.
  • This was the appropriate time for repair of houses in the flood-prone areas, however, due to limited finances, this work has not been undertaken, which is impacting both the houseowner and the skilled and semi-skilled/unskilled workers.
  • In a few places, women are being offered Rs. 100 per day, whereas men receive
    250/day.
  • Psycho-social impact – people consider coronavirus to be an illness, which is communicated by infected person through talking to others; it is a foreign disease; an illness that causes death and is a transmittable disease; it first impacts the throat and then chokes it; conflict between in-laws and daughters-in-law, as the latter are holding the in-laws responsible for sending their husbands to Gujarat and Punjab to earn, and they are stuck due to the pandemic.

Sahorwa

  • Approximately 150 men are stuck in Punjab, leading to a collective stress in the village, which is mostly inhabited by women, children and elders. There are only 10-15 men in the village.
  • Problem in running households and accessing food; at times, villagers eat only salt and roti.
  • Villagers have not been able to access ration provided by the government.
  • Psycho-social impact – extreme stressful conditions due to lack of money and absence of male members in the family; coronavirus is a foreign originated disease, hence, there is no cure for this virus; women are solely responsible for generating financial resources which is anyhow limited and they also have to manage the household; for a half-day of labour, women are paid anything between Rs. 50 and Rs. 60.

Badi Madarpur, Govindpur and Jan Muhammad villages

  • Daily casual/informal/unorganized workers (rikshaw owners/ pullers, handcart owners, autorickshaw owners/drivers, ice-cream sellers, tea and pan sellers, roadside small shop owners) are unable to earn because of the lockdown.
  • Women have to cook in large proportions, leading to additional work at the household level.
  • More food is being consumed as family members are staying at home for longer duration.
  • Education has been affected.
  • Basic food is being consumed at the household level, without lentils and vegetables.
  • Marketing has become difficult due to the lockdown.
  • Tension in households whose male members are stuck in different states across the country.
  • There is no inflow of money from members who have migrated elsewhere.
  • Households, which have their ration cards and Aadhaar linked to their bank accounts, have received money, but for households that haven’t, people fear that they will not receive the Rs. 1000/family allocated by the state government.
  • Arwa chaawal is being provided, through the Public Distribution System (PDS), whereas the people in the region are accustomed to eating mota chaawal.
  • PDS functioning is still not transparent.
  • Relationships are getting affected due to the fear of spreading of the virus.
  • Limited or no local employment opportunities.

 Suryahi

  • How to survive this pandemic?
  • Fear is prevalent in the village.
  • There are no local livelihood opportunities learding to large scale unemployment, hence the future seems to be bleak.
  • Total change in eating habits. Children have started eating more, whereas adults have curtailed their food and are seen eating just once a day.
  • Fear is restricting people to venture out of the village.

What are some lessons from your regular work that would be relevant to this situation?

  1. Drinking water supply through bottled water has completely stopped due to the lockdown, hence MPA’s previous work on matka filters will not only provide a way to access safe drinking water, but will also generate livelihood opportunities for the potters.
  2. Keeping the social distancing in mind, revival and repair of dug wells can be taken up, which will generate employment opportunities in the villages and develop access to arsenic-free water.
  3. Decentralized drinking water testing at the panchayat level can also be taken up by involving volunteers.

What could have been planned differently given the knowledge we already have about communities, their needs and capacities? 

  1. Demystifying the coronavirus.
  2. Decentralized aggressive public awareness about coronavirus and government schemes (specifically for the present times).
  3. Decentralized monitoring mechanism.
  4. Focus on inaccessible areas and disaster-prone areas.
  5. Prepare people for the future.

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