Study undertaken in five surrounding villages of UoH
342 households interviewed by 36 field investigators in a day following COVID 19 regulations
Survey accounted for a comprehensive understanding on community awareness of COVID-19.
It also reviewed how India handled the impact of 1918 Pandemic (H1N1 virus) and the measures that India took to overcome the economic challenges in the post pandemic stage in the last century
The University Grants Commission (UGC) requested all the central universities and its component colleges to commission a study entitled “Impact of COVID-19 & 1918 Flu Pandemic (H1N1 Virus) in India” within a 3-week period from 12/6/2020 to 30/6/2020. The broad mandate outlined was:
- To study the impact of COVID-19 on health and economy of the rural communities and lessons learnt from the 1918 Flu pandemic.The University of Hyderabad (UoH) embarked on this time bound study of less than 3 weeks with the following objectives, namely:
- To understand the awareness with respect to the current COVID-19 pandemic among the rural communities in the catchment population of the university.
- To get an overview of the modalities of how these same rural communities have withstood the widespread transmission till now.
- To learn about the best practices/strategies adopted by the rural communities to combat the challenges posed by COVID-19.
- To document the measures taken by India to address the 1918 influenza pandemic with respect to health.
- To understand and document the measures taken by India to boost the economy following the 1918 influenza pandemic.
The study was completed in record time by the university between 18/6/2020 and 26/6/2020 and the final report was finalized and submitted by uploading on to the dedicated UGC portal on 30 June 2020.
Five villages namely Tellapur, Osman Nagar, Kolluru, Velmula and Vattinagulapally of Ranga Reddy and Sangareddy District of Telangana state was selected by virtue of its area within the field practice limits of the university’s’ response to its social responsibility activities.
A mixed-methods approach was deployed using a questionnaire and an interview guide that had both quantitative and qualitative inquiry methods to capture primary information from the communities. Field notes, audio and video recordings were also transcribed to support the data collection modalities.
Trained and well briefed thirty-six (36) Field Investigators (FI), assisted by a core team of 6 university faculty after seeking necessary permissions and consultations from the local self-government authorities undertook this study using the face to face method through door to door visits. Tenets of the research
requirement during the COVID-19 time were considered and complied with very strictly.
Data collection was undertaken on five core aspects to address the specific objectives. These included:
Awareness of COVID-19 and its implications,
- Income & Employment,
- Social Impact,
- Health and
- Administrative & Policy Measures.
Respondents covering 342 households from the 5 selected villages provided invaluable information over a full day survey on 20/6/2020.
Salient features that emerged from the study revealed that:
- The health department has been successful both in identifying and controlling the local spread of COVID-19 within the communities.
- The leadership of the local self-government and health department also assisted the affected communities to undertake home quarantine for the civilians, who travelled from outside to their areas.
- In matters of sanitation and cleanliness, incredible work was visible on the ground. However, there were some limitations in the domain of conducting awareness programmes and door to door surveys to trace the positive cases.
- Migrant management was facilitated effectively and the office of the municipalities was able to identify the migrant workers and sent them back to their native places.
- Sanitisation and local decontamination including community communication efforts were being undertaken very actively in all the studied areas.
- Similarly, on the work front, farming and dairy activities were not affected compared to non-farming informal sector.
- Housing facilities, enabling working conditions, nutrition and livelihoods still needed urgent attention from the state, specifically for the marginalised sections.
- Benefits and entitlements like food security schemes, old age pensions, and widow/widower pensions were being made available to the communities.
Based on the findings, broad recommendations related to
- Life – Saving lives, prevention and control mechanisms of the disease and its health impact immediately.
- Livelihoods – Addressing the socio, economic and behavioural challenges with policy prescriptions to meet the current period and for the future in order to boost economy.
- Living – Trying to adjust to the new normal and for better preparedness and response of the communities to future such pandemics by developing locally resilient and effective strategies.
Largely, securing good health involves available, affordable, accessible, accountable and acceptable quality health care services that is timely and well supplemented and supported by improvement in living conditions to foster better quality of life. These critical forces are predicated on a robust, holistic and comprehensive participatory planning between providers and beneficiaries. On this count, the crisis associated with COVID-19, provokes us to deliberate on these fronts.
Based on the analysis of data the following few specific recommendations and policy prescriptions were proposed:
- As scientific fraternities are still struggling to develop a therapeutic solution for COVID-19 and due to its sheer unfamiliarity with regard to the spread and recovery. Systematic data collection, record keeping and scaling up testing are important in this direction. This aids not merely to generate new knowledge but also helps the greater public. However, the present study reflected a knowledge gap on various fronts.
- Gaps in Knowledge related to health aspects of COVID-19 within the studied communities should be addressed by democratisation of knowledge – this may entail flow of information from professionals to the public through sensitization and awareness programmes using engaging communication and locally relevant methods with community participation.
- Service gaps need capacitation of community based public health infrastructure with adequately informed and trained human resources so that they can communicate the aspects related to home care or facility based consultation and also undertake active and passive surveillance activities as advised by the district health authorities. This may also mean regular door to door surveys and adequate testing, where required, with directions for referral.
- Improvement in living conditions entails ensuring proper housing with proper ventilation, safe drinking water, sanitary reforms, food security, conducive working conditions and economic security. On the positive side, this study indicates that state agencies have done a commendable work with regard to hygiene and cleanliness, supply of ration and financial assistance.
Additionally, water was not an issue. Similarly, on the work front, farming and dairy activities were not affected compared to non-farming informal sector.
- However, housing facilities, electricity, enabling working conditions, nutrition and livelihoods needs urgent attention from the state, specifically for the marginalised sections. These latter aspects hinge on the question of equity and justice. Hence national and state programmes maybe re-engineered cum re-purposed and targeted keeping in mind the acuteness related to this important group of people.
- Though old age pension, ration and food distribution programme helped in reducing hunger, it raises the question of nutritional security. Hence, a comprehensive policy is needed to boost rural economy through strategies like buying directly from the farmers, food processing on perishable food items and decentralised cold storage facilities in order to reactivate/boost small scale industries. These have both health and socio-economic dimensions and are very vital for overall life, livelihood and living.
- Direct Benefit Transfer schemes are playing a pivotal role as a coping strategy during the COVID- 19 crisis. Existing schemes, policies and facilitating programmes are covering the life course of individuals and populations and are a very important cog in the wheel of social justice and equity. They have also played a very vital role during non – COVID-19 times.
- However, these schemes must make efforts for bringing in more inclusivity as in the case of public distribution system of food grains or disability, old age or widow/widower pensions or even mobile crèches or conditional cash transfer for health care or farming.
- It was widely seen that the attitude towards COVID-19 and the need for behavioural strategies was still indifferent apart from good knowledge and awareness of the condition itself. Knowing their own entitlements and benefits and waiting for it reach when the whole community is demanding it creates a demand and supply mismatch.
- The local self-government especially the panchayat/municipality offices must escalate and engage communities more with awareness programmes and facilitate providing these benefits and entitlements to those who direly need it.
- Communication strategies using appropriate and local methods like folk songs and street plays must be used to reach people effectively. It would be an ideal medium considering 35 to 40 percent illiteracy rate in the studied rural communities.
- During 1918 pandemic, Government made appeals to wealthy people to help fellow poor in their locality. The studied communities also fall within the vicinity of the burgeoning limits of the metropolis of Hyderabad and provides human resources for most of the construction activities apart from local farming.
- There is a need to foster solidarity and the “gift of giving” or adoption of these communities through promoting partnerships for better provisioning of public services.
- There is a need that all sectors need to come together at all levels of government, voluntary and the private sector in mitigating the pandemic and providing employment and sustenance of the communities for improvement of quality of life and progress towards the SustainableDevelopment Goals.
- In the fight of 1918 pandemic, British Indian government focused on opening temporary dispensaries and shops for free distribution of medicines.
- The PM Jan Arogya Yojana (PMJAY) and the state governments Arogyasri with portability modalities due to lack of MoU between the state and centre must be re-purposed as an effective policy that would help save lives and economy even during the present COVID-19situations.
- The weak healthcare system of that time and following famine made the situation of the country worse which exposed the fallacies of Colonial rule in India.
- India needs to reinforce the agriculture sector by extending the input subsidy and best price for their products.
- Daily wage workers should be engaged in agriculture and allied activities in rural villages itself.
- The studied communities and their respondents had good awareness with respect to the term Corona and its consequences but the attitude towards its serious consequences has not influenced them yet. While the mode of spread, transmission, prevention and home remedies for boosting immunity seemed adequate, newer updates of symptoms, seeking testing when symptomatic, and modalities to seek further treatment and management seemed inadequate. Myths, misconceptions and stigma does exist.
- It is recommended that awareness and information services be sustained but targeted to the needed communities more specifically and use of local appropriate means of information dissemination. Substance abuse, especially consumption of liquor and to some extent smoking among the male population is quite high and increasing. This is an early indication that attention to mental health issues and behavioural change communication is equally important in addition to the awareness and allaying myths/misconceptions of COVID-19.
- Substance abuse, especially consumption of liquor and to some extent smoking among the male population is quite high and increasing. This is an early indication that attention to mental health issues and behavioural change communication is equally important in addition to the awareness and allaying myths/misconceptions of COVID-19.
- The modality of how this can be done needs to be discussed with the local leadership of the communities as behavioural change communication takes time to impact and embed and needs consistency and perseverance.
- “Behavioural” vaccine like personal hygiene, safe distancing and wearing a face cover during all times till a medical vaccine or effective prevention or treatment with medicines becomes available has been the learning from 1918 pandemic for India.
- While community-based measures take time to percolate and be embedded, personal and individual efforts at this behaviour change is very critical and should be followed at all times especially when there is an impending high-risk environment. This becomes all the more important in the absence of a medical vaccine.
- Households in the self-employment sector including own business/shops, agricultural farming and small enterprises did not suffer much compared to other formal sectors during this COVID-19 crisis in terms of loss of income and employment.
- This indicates that the self-employment sector should be strengthened and motivated both in the short run and long run for overall development of the rural economy and for the crisis management.
- Households in the lower income group, mainly from daily wage earners, migrant workers and contractual employees, are the worst sufferers in all aspects during COVID-19.
- Policy mechanisms must be made, both in cash and kinds, to help those worst suffering households. Availability of credit without collaterals may be an option.
The major findings and subsequent recommendations that have emerged from this field based research has been an important contribution to the body of knowledge related to the rural community’s response to COVID-19. This also aligns itself very well with the mandate of “University Social Responsibility” that UoH has set for itself to be both socially relevant and accountable in all its offerings.
The current research report also provides a comprehensive understanding on community awareness of COVID-19, various social and economic challenges that they have been facing during the impact of COVID-19 including different innovative methods they have evolved and implemented to overcome these challenges. The study also reviewed how India handled the impact of 1918 Pandemic (H1N1 virus) and the measures that India took to overcome the economic challenges in the post pandemic stage in the last century. These findings and recommendations of the current study may be useful to learn lessons and direct policies and programmes within the local and state context.
Further, the Vice-Chancellor encouraged the research team to further extend the study at least for a six- month period in order to capture the life changes before, during and after COVID-19 especially related to the core social, health and behavioural domains and response by the rural communities.
This was thought as a way for better preparing the rural communities to respond to the future pandemics when they occur.
The core team of the university that was constituted included Prof. Phanindra Goyari and Dr. Krishna Reddy Chittedi (School of Economics), Prof. B. R. Shamanna (School of Medical Sciences), Dr. T. Apparao (Dept. of Anthropology), Dr. Asima Jena (Dept. of Sociology) and Dr. V. Srinivasa Rao (Centre for Regional studies) and Mr. Ashish Jacob Thomas (Public Relations Officer) to execute the study.