AN EYE TO INDIAN HOUSEHOLDS DURING PANDEMIC
The first case of COVID-19 in was reported on late January 2020 and on late March 2020 the country went to lockdown. The Indian households were severely affected by the pandemic and lockdown. It ranges from economic crisis to domestic violence and from healthcare to education. India being a developing country has been hit hard by the pandemic. When things were getting back to normal, the second wave of COVID-19 has worst hit India in 2021, increasing the death rate and many states are undergoing lockdown.
A pandemic is not just a medical phenomenon, it affects individuals and society as a whole. Households are the backbone of the country. Indian households are mostly affected by the pandemic. Majority of India’s population stays along with parents and grandparents, so it is easier to find out the crisis through the households. A normal Indian household consist of husband, wife, their children and parents. The crisis faced by the household includes the problems faced by individuals in different age groups and gender. The problems faced by normal Indian households includes domestic violence, health care services, economic crisis, un employment, reduction in wages, low income and education.
The health care sector has been broadly classified into private and government. The private hospitals has better infrastructure facilities but many of the multi-speciality hospitals are not affordable to more than half of the population. Most of the government hospital doesn’t even have the basic infrastructure facilities. Even though 60 percent of India’s population lives in rural areas, the number of hospitals and health care centres are very less in these areas. Proper health care at appropriate time has been a luxury to majority of the Indians.
Since the beginning of pandemic, health care has become more important than anything. Initially the scarcity of equipment began when it was necessary to separate COVID and non COVID patients to prevent the spreading of virus. There wasn’t enough facilities such as ICU and HDU. This created demands for ventilators, ICU beds, oxygen supplies. Many people died due to unavailability of oxygen and proper medical care. India had the highest demand for oxygen out of all other low, lower-middle and upper middle income countries in the world. Hospitals are full and people are dying on the streets of the capital. Even though the second wave has hit harder, half of the population is still not vaccinated.
India has been in a mental health pandemic for a long time, and now it is being exacerbated by the Corona. The sufferers are unable to express themselves in the fear due to lack of knowledge of family and friends in dealing with mental health. Mental health issues are completely normal, but isn’t considered as normal in Indian households. This makes delay in reaching for professional help. Individuals who are undergoing quarantine and self-isolation are affected with depression, anxiety etc. Mostly children and teens are undergoing anxiety and distress of staying in isolation. 65 percent of those aged between 18 to 24 years suffer from depression. The psychiatric side effects of corona virus includes mood swing and fatigue. About 30 percent of the patients deals with post traumatic mental disorder. The number of people seeking psychiatric help is very less. They often live with these traumas along with them. Men are more likely to develop depression than women due to traditional gender roles and are more likely to suicide.
As the death rate is increasing, the crematoriums are organising mass funerals. The poor who are unable to bear the cost of cremation has been dumping the bodies on the banks of river, thus making the water a carrier of the virus. Now different variants of the Corona virus is identified in different parts of the country. People who has been recovered from Corona is infected by black fungus and about 12000 cases has been reported.
As the pandemic has reached its peak, the government has ordered for lockdown making most of the employees to work from home. This has made a significant increase in the rate of domestic violence as women are forced to stay indoors. National Commission for Women (NCW)’s data shows that the number of complaint against domestic violence has doubled during the lockdown. Domestic violence is a gender based violence that is usually experienced in homes with partner or other family members. Domestic violence includes intimate partner violence, abuse from in-laws, emotional and economic abuses. The disruption of access to protective networks increased the risk of violence. Women who work from home are forced to do all the household chores and care work along with their work and this leads to increased stress and at times are the reason for abuse from in-laws. The women who has lost their jobs during the pandemic are more prone to violence. As the resource becomes scarcer, women has greater risk for experiencing economic crisis. They also suffer from insomnia, anxiety and distress due to overwhelming work load.
Women or men with mental health issues are more vulnerable to domestic violence. Most of the women who are prone to violence during pandemic is from men in the household. Research conducted prior to pandemic shows that withdrawal of alcohol increases violence. Lack of availability of alcohol during the pandemic has resulted in individuals showing withdrawal symptoms (mental and physical reaction) which leads to violence. Women experience sexual violence from spouse or partner. It includes coercive sex, non-consented sexual intercourse, harming during sex. Only very few women reach out for help but police and other forces are unable to take adequate measures due to the scarcity of resource. Even if the helpline numbers are available, women have to wait until the perpetrator to go out to make a call. Most of the time, the helpline number which is 24*7 are not available. ‘One Stop Centre’s’ are present throughout the country, but they are unable to reach the victims due inadequacy of crisis centres. Women who has got injuries avoid seeking medical help in fear of COVID-19 infection. Children who witness violence between parents are likely to be victims of abuse and some of them even harm themselves.
Another crisis faced by Indian household is economic crisis. The country is experiencing an economic crisis, there is a fall in income of 84 percentage of Indian households. Unemployment and decrease in wages are the prominent reasons. Due to the pandemic and lockdown many of the daily wage workers are unable to earn a living. Private sector has reduced the number of employees. A large number of Indians who has been working in United Arab Emirates has returned due to COVID-19 recession. This has led to an increase in the number of unemployed. The wages of the workers has also been reduced leading to decrease in the income. Half of the total number of migrant workers are unemployed, unable to make an earning. The workers has gone back to their villages. Due to the pandemic and travel restrictions, they are unable to find new jobs and the villages are into poverty. Due to the scarcity of resources, famine is increasing.
About 220 million individuals fall below the national daily minimum wage threshold. Since there is a decrease in the income of majority of households, many of them are unable to meet their basic needs leading to poverty. Prior to the pandemic there was a drop in poverty from 340 million to 78 million in a decade. But the pandemic has erased the gains of a decade in a single year by pushing nearly 75 million people into poverty. The individuals who fell into the category of just above the poverty has fallen to the category of poor. The middle class Indians who had a stable income has also fallen into this category.
E-learning process is on rise since the pandemic. The students are having classes in digital platform since the pandemic. There are no contact classes conducted. The main benefit in educational sector is the accelerated adoption of digital technologies. Many has got global education and worldwide exposure. Virtual classrooms and webinars are now common to the students. Virtual classrooms helps in transfer of ideas and knowledge in innovative ways. The students in urban areas may not be affected with the technological issues, but the students in rural students are affected. The technology in rural areas is not advanced as much as the urban areas. There are still places in rural India where the internet connection is poor and the disruption of electricity is high. There are students who has unavailability of electronic devices such as laptops and mobile phones. As per survey conducted by NCERT, 27 percent of Indian students has no access to electronic devices. Earlier textbooks were available to students in physical form but now the students are advised to use the digital copy. The students studying in municipal and government schools in primary and middle classes are mostly affected. They doesn’t get enough care of teachers as the classes are digital and their parents might not be able to teach them. Most of these students have siblings who are studying, due to less number of electronic devices they might not be able to attend classes in same time.
Since schools are not conducting exams, the chances of students not attending classes and not knowing portions are high. Only one-third of the students are learning online. The higher education is affected as exams are postponed and admissions are delayed. Placements are also delayed. The students who has enrolled for studies in foreign countries are returning due to pandemic.
ACTION OF GOVERNMENT
The government has been trying to help the citizens in the possible ways. There is inadequate investment in health care by central government. The government was not prepared for the second wave of COVID 19 and so it had a drastic effect. The state governments are trying to provide adequate health care facilities. States like Kerala is providing better health care facilities along with mental health care services. India authorises Covaxin developed by Bharath biotech, Covishield developed by Oxford/ AstraZeneca and Sputnik V developed by Gamaleya Research Institute of Epidemiology and Microbiology, Russia. The government provides free vaccines to the people through government vaccination centres. Health workers are given priority for vaccination and health insurances are given. In the case of unemployment and low wages, the government is providing interest free loans or low interest loans where a part of interest shall be paid as subsidies by the government to the unemployed and also a period of moratorium for the existing loans. Food grains are regularly being supplied through the ration shops.
The pandemic has drastically affected Indians. Since country’s richest 10 percent owns almost three fourth of its wealth, the most affected is the low, lower middle and upper middle households. Indians invest the least in healthcare and faced a huge health care crisis due to inadequacy of proper health care services. The death rate has been very huge that crematoriums are filled with burials. Dead bodies are burned in huge pyres. There are people who cannot afford to cremate the dead bodies due to poverty. Due to the pandemic, many people are victims of domestic violence. The economic crisis is increasing. The income of household are decreasing but the prices of petrol and diseal are increasing. Even though there are online classes for students, very few are benefitting out of it. Exams are not conducted and courses are not ended in the said period making it harder for students.
The loss of an average Indian house hold is high. But Indian households are not given much importance during the pandemic and the problems faced by them are not highlighted. There are not enough studies about the sociological effects the pandemic. Detailed studies should be conducted about the effect of pandemic. Surveys should be conducted. Adequate measures should be taken by the government to provide basic facilities such as proper health care services, food supplies etc. More investments should be made in health care sector.
Student at SILT, MG UNIVERSITY