Skip to main content

Second wave: Disruption in health services 'exacerbated' gender inequalities

By Ritika Gupta, Anshula Mehta, Ishika Chaudhary, Sakshi Sharda, Arjun Kumar*

The second wave of Covid-19 pandemic has exacerbated inequalities to a great extent affecting every sector of life deeply. To understand its effect on women, the Gender Impact Studies Center (GISC), Impact and Policy Research Institute (IMPRI), New Delhi, organized a panel discussion on Gendered Impact of the Catastrophic Second Wave of COVID-19 Pandemic: Way Forward towards Combating the Third Wave in India.
Prof Vibhuti Patel, eminent economist and feminist, formerly at the Tata Institute of Social Science Research (TISS), Mumbai, initiated the discussion, stating that it is important to discuss the gender implications of the pandemic as the situation went worse in the second wave. Covid orphans and Covid widows are the new terms added to our vocabulary due to the devastating impact of the Covid-19.
She pointed to naked profiteering by private enterprises amidst the pandemic, which is pathetic. Stating that we need to promote universal health care and 6% of our GDP should be devoted to the public health sector, she insisted, the government needs to give attention to one crore girls who are at the verge of dropping-out of schools; food and nutrition safety; job safety for unemployment; recognition, reduction and redistribution of care work; application of labour standards; health insurance to Asha and anganwadi workers; and global minimum tax of 15% for corporate profits as talked about during G7 summit 2021.
Gender responsive public policy for inter-sectional marginalities based on caste, class, religion, gender and ethnicity is the need of the hour, Prof Patel said, adding, gender based violence has taken varied forms in the form of sexual violence, online harassments, domestic abuse, forced child marriages etc. Mata corona temples have been set up in villages as people believe that by worshipping corona, they can get rid of it. Labour codes affecting women need to be discussed promptly.
Renu Khanna, trustee, Sahaj, Vadodara, and, member, Feminist Policy Collective, focused on public health response of the pandemic. She presented a case study of maternal health, which suggested that there are social determinants affecting maternal health. Effective response is required to “build back better”. Food and livelihood security are crucial.
Providing data, she said, the proportion of households eating less before the second wave lockdown was 60%, compared to 77% during the lockdown which followed. Nearly 66% migrants and informal workers ate less than two meals a day and less nutritious food even in September-October 2020. Relief measures helped but patchy Debt trap increased due to depletion of physical and financial resources.
According to a UN Women report, in 2021, 118 women for every 100 men aged 25 to 34 were living in extreme poverty. This would reach to 130 women by 2030. According to a World Bank report, in India more than 12 million people would be pushed to poverty because of the pandemic. There is reduced nutrition for lactating and pregnant women, and increased workload, care work and violence against women.
She quoted a Centre for Disease Control study to say that there is 70% increased the risk of death among pregnant women during Covid. Lancet’s global health report has also revealed that maternal deaths and still births have risen by 33% because of disruption in health services.
During the second wave, more women got get infected -- 38.5% of total cases as compared to 34% in July 2020 in Telangana, she said. Women are generally admitted late, especially those from rural areas. Denial of services is a huge issue. There are heart tormenting stories of pregnant women. Doctors are reporting dilemmas as doing a C section on a Covid positive pregnant women. Digital divide is further aggravated the situation as women in rural areas find it hard to register on CoWin App.
Poonam Kathuria, director, Society for Women’s Action and Training Initiatives (SWATI), Ahmedabad, highlighting gender based violence, said, there have been higher cases of unwanted pregnancies. Women are losing jobs more than men due to additional family responsibilities. In rural areas, land is mainly registered in the name of males, but due to the death of male in the family because of Coronavirus, women are facing problems related to inheritance.
Seema Kulkarni, founding member, Society for Promoting Participative Ecosystem Management (SOPPECOM), Pune, said that the bargaining power of Dalit women was particularly found to be very low during the second wave. This apart, there is a sharp rise of Covid widows in rural areas. In fact, public systems failed women.
She added, subsistence agriculture is in critical state. There are no opportunities for livestock and forest workers. To access PDS, documents are needed to access food. Therefore, food security is critical. Access to loans via micro finance institutions is leading to mounting debt crisis. Women are subjected to sexual harassment on not paying loans. Widows and orphans need our attention. Structural inequalities need to be looked into deeply. Community support also needs to be strengthened. Ecologically sound agriculture needs to be promoted.
Dr Swati Rane, CEO, Seva Shakti Healthcare Consultancy, and core committee member, Jan Swasthya Abhiyan, Mumbai, asserted that every person who gives care professionally is a healthcare worker. Females are the primary care workers. Violence against female health care workers is only tip of the iceberg. Gender leadership gaps are driven by stereotypes, discrimination, power imbalance and privilege. In India, women form 50% of healthcare workforce. Nearly 88% women are nurses and midwives.
Women are almost 70% of health workforce but it is estimated that they hold only 25% of senior roles, she said. Sanitation workers, large number of whom are women, remain most ignored. States haven’t come with uniform policies for these workers, many of whom are women. Nurses, estimated to be around 50% of all health workers, are significantly under-represented in national health leadership. Nearly 76% nurses are overworked, according to the study conducted jointly with Saathi. In the first wave, there were 62 deaths in eight months, and in the second wave, there were 62 deaths in three months.
She continued, across Maharashtra, at least 570 Asha workers were infected with Covid-19. Asha workers are underpaid and overworked. They are subjected to physical abuse or violence during house to house surveys. There is no proper job role for them, as their duties include prenatal and postnatal care, immunization drives for children, population-based screening for disease-based surveillance among others.
---
*Researchers team at Impact and Policy Research Institute (IMPRI), New Delhi

Comments

TRENDING

Swami Vivekananda's views on caste and sexuality were 'painfully' regressive

By Bhaskar Sur* Swami Vivekananda now belongs more to the modern Hindu mythology than reality. It makes a daunting job to discover the real human being who knew unemployment, humiliation of losing a teaching job for 'incompetence', longed in vain for the bliss of a happy conjugal life only to suffer the consequent frustration.

How lead petitioner was rendered homeless when GM mustard matter came up in SC

By Rosamma Thomas*  On January 5, 2023, the Supreme Court stayed a December 20, 2022 direction of the Uttarakhand High Court to the Indian Railways and the district administration of Haldwani to use paramilitary forces to evict thousands of poor families occupying land that belonged to the railways.  Justice AS Oka remarked that it was not right to order the bringing in of paramilitary forces. The SC held that even those who had no rights, but were living there for years, needed to be rehabilitated. On December 21, 2022, just as she was getting ready to celebrate Christmas, researcher Aruna Rodrigues was abruptly evicted from her home in Mhow Cantonment, Madhya Pradesh – no eviction notice was served, and nearly 30 Indian Army soldiers bearing arms were part of the eviction process. What is noteworthy in this case is that the records establishing possession of the house date back to 1892 – the title deed with the name of Dr VP Cardoza, Rodrigues’ great grandfather, is dated November 14

Buddhist shrines were 'massively destroyed' by Brahmanical rulers: Historian DN Jha

Nalanda mahavihara By Our Representative Prominent historian DN Jha, an expert in India's ancient and medieval past, in his new book , "Against the Grain: Notes on Identity, Intolerance and History", in a sharp critique of "Hindutva ideologues", who look at the ancient period of Indian history as "a golden age marked by social harmony, devoid of any religious violence", has said, "Demolition and desecration of rival religious establishments, and the appropriation of their idols, was not uncommon in India before the advent of Islam".

Savarkar 'criminally betrayed' Netaji and his INA by siding with the British rulers

By Shamsul Islam* RSS-BJP rulers of India have been trying to show off as great fans of Netaji. But Indians must know what role ideological parents of today's RSS/BJP played against Netaji and Indian National Army (INA). The Hindu Mahasabha and RSS which always had prominent lawyers on their rolls made no attempt to defend the INA accused at Red Fort trials.

Tax buoyancy claims when less than 4% Indian dollar millionaires pay income tax

By Prasanna Mohanty  In FY18, the last year for which disaggregated income tax data is available, only 29,002 ITRs declared income above Rs 5 crore, while Credit Suisse said India had 7.25 lakh dollar millionaires (the wealth equivalent of Rs 8 crore and above) that year. Often enough, the Centre claims that demonetization in 2016 raised tax collections, improved tax efficiency, and expanded the tax base. Now RBI Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) member Ashima Goyal has also joined their ranks, attributing the “claims” of rising tax collections in the current fiscal year to “tax buoyancy” brought by the demonetisation . Do such claims have any basis in official records? The answer is unequivocal. The budget documents show the tax-to-GDP ratio (direct plus indirect tax) increased from 10.6% in FY16 (pre-demonetization) to 11.2% in FY17, remained there in FY18 (demonetization and GST fiscals), and then fell to 9.9% in FY20. In FY22, it improved to 10.8% and is estimated to drop to 10.7% in

Cyrus Mistry, PM Modi’s brother: What do these accidents have in common? Merc!

By Rosamma Thomas*  In September 2022, in an accident at Palghar near Mumbai, Cyrus Mistry, former chairman of the Tata Group, died in a road accident . On December 28, 2022, a road accident in Mysore left one of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s brothers injured. What is common in these accidents? The car that crashed into the divider on the road, in both these cases, was manufactured by “prestigious” German manufacturer Mercedes Benz. One former dealer of Mercedes Benz cars in India has been raising issues of the threat to the lives of those riding these cars for many years now. Cama Motors, among the oldest dealers of foreign cars, having started business in pre-independence India, noted over 10 years ago that Mercedes Benz was indulging in corrupt practices . The cars are currently priced between Rs 41 lakh and Rs 2.92 crore in India; few people realize that the pride of owning a Merc comes at considerable risk to life. Cama Motors carefully documented several of the flaws on a websi

Gandhian unease at Mahadev Desai book launch: Sabarmati Ashram may lose free space

By Rajiv Shah  A simmering apprehension has gripped the Gandhians who continue to be trustees of the Sabarmati Ashram: the “limited freedom” to express one’s views under the Modi dispensation still available at the place which Mahatma Gandhi made his home from 1917 to 1930 may soon be taken away. Also known as Harijan Ashram, a meeting held for introducing yet-to-be-released book, “Mahadev Desai: Mahatma Gandhi's Frontline Reporter”, saw speaker and after speaker point towards “narrowing space” in Gujarat for Gandhians (as also others) to express themselves. Penned by veteran journalist Nachiketa Desai, grandson of Mahadev Desai, while the book was planned to be released on January 1 and the meeting saw several prominent personalities, including actor-director Nandita Das, her scholar-mother Varsha Das, British House of Lords member Bhikhu Parekh, among others, speak glowingly about the effort put in for bringing out the book, exchanges between speakers suggested it should be rele

Civil rights leaders allege corporate loot of resources, suppression of democratic rights

By Our Representative  Civil rights activists have alleged, quoting top intelligence officers as also multiple international forensic reports, that recent developments with regard to the Bhima Koregaon and the Citizenship Amendment Act-National Register of Citizens (CAA-NRC) cases suggest, there was "no connection between the Elgaar Parishad event and the Bhima Koregaon violence." Activists of the Campaign Against State Repression (CASR) told a media event at the HKS Surjeet Bhawan, New Delhi, that, despite this, several political prisoners continue to be behind bars on being accused under the anti-terror the draconian Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act. Addressed by family members of the political prisoners, academics, as well as social activists, it was highlighted how cases were sought to be fabricated against progressive individuals, democratic activists and intellectuals, who spoke out against "corporate loot of Indian resources, suppression of basic democratic

Kerala natural rubber producers 'squeezed', attend to their plight: Govt of India told

By Rosamma Thomas   Babu Joseph, general secretary of the National Federation of Rubber Producers Societies (NFRPS) at a recent discussion at Mahatma Gandhi University, Kottayam, explained that it is high time the Union government paid greater heed to the troubles plaguing the rubber production sector in India – rubber is a strategic product, important for the military establishment and for industry, since natural rubber is still used in the manufacture of tyres for large vehicles and aeroplanes. Synthetic rubber is now quite widespread, but styrene, which is used in making synthetic rubber and plastics, and also butadiene, another major constituent of synthetic rubber, are both hazardous. Prolonged exposure to these even in recycled rubber can cause neurological damage. Kerala produces the bulk of India’s natural rubber. In 2019-20, Kerala’s share in the national production of rubber was over 74%. Over 20% of the gross cropped area in the state is under rubber cultivation, with total

Bangladesh 'rights violations': US softens stance, fears increased clout of China, India

By Tilottama Rani Charulata*  In December 2021, in addition to the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB), the United States imposed sanctions on seven former and current officers of the force, alleging serious human rights violations. Benazir Ahmed and former RAB-7 commander Miftah Uddin Ahmed were banned from entering the US. RAB as an institution was also canceled the support it was getting from the US and its allies. At the same time, those under the ban have been notified of confiscation of assets held abroad. The anti-crime and anti-terrorism unit of the Bangladesh Police, RAB is the elite force consisting of members of the Bangladesh Army, Bangladesh Police, Bangladesh Navy, Bangladesh Air Force, Border Guard Bangladesh, Bangladesh Civil Service and Bangladesh Ansar, and has been criticized by rights groups for its use of extrajudicial killings and is accused of forced disappearances. The government of Bangladesh has been insisting about lifting the ban on RAB, but the US had till recen