India Coronavirus Dispatch: Anganwadis shut down; schools prepare to reopen

File photo of Anganwadi centre | Photo: Wikipedia
India vs Rest of South Asia: South Asia, a region characterised by low standards of healthcare and densely populated spaces, was expected to be badly hit by the pandemic. However, India has taken a huge lead in terms of cases than the rest of the region. India’s caseload is 13 times that of Bangladesh and 15 times Pakistan's. But given the size of the country, a fair comparison can be arrived at only by looking at the per capita figures. Even in terms of cases per million of population, India leads Bangladesh and Pakistan by 1.6 and 2.3 times respectively. Compared to Sri Lanka, the figure shoots up to 21.5 times on the positive side. Even in terms of deaths per million of the population, India leads by significant margins. Perhaps most worryingly, cases in Bangladesh and Pakistan are on the downturn while they continue to surge here. A couple of factors that could explain the numbers are that India has also been testing much more than these countries and the fact that Pakistan’s population is significantly younger.  Read more here

Pubs reopen: Pubs in Delhi have finally reopened. However, things are far from normal. Menu cards are sent to customers on WhatsApp, waiters and other staff don gloves and face shields, and there are fewer people around than the pre-pandemic times. SOP issued by DDMA restricts pub staff to only the essential ones and does not allow any standing customers. Violating these guidelines could mean cancellation of license. A survey at the most popular destination in Hauz Khas village and Connaught Place revealed that the number of people who visited was far below the even the restricted capacity. The bars have decided to not play loud music or in-house gigs and keeping off game nights in an effort to discourage people from taking to the dance floor. Some of bar-owners plan to play IPL matches. Another major change is that the bars are a little hotter now since the guidelines have restricted temperatures as well. Read more here

Child marriage: Between March and June, amid the pandemic, the Union Ministry of Women and Child Development, received 5,584 phone calls asking for prevention of child marriage. State governments and local organisations have also reported a spike in these alerts over underage marriage. Based on empirical and anecdotal evidence, an uptick in these cases have a definite correlation with nationwide lockdowns imposed to check the spread of the virus. As families were staring at economic oblivion, the ‘burden’ of an adolescent girl child became too heavy to bear for many. This trend noticed in parts of India is actually consistent with patterns noticed in the aftermath past disasters in India and in other parts of the world. Widespread financial insecurity has forced many to get into a bidding process where the girl is exchanged for livestock. People working with child welfare organisations say the number of tip-offs they have received over the last few months is twice that of pre-Covid times. Read more here

Schooling amid Corona

Experts advice caution: Partial reopening of schools has been permitted by the Health Ministry from September 21. Sero-surveys show that children have a high incidence of Covid-19 infections but are mostly asymptomatic and hence become carriers of the disease. In fact, in Delhi’s second serological survey, the group aged 5-17 accounted for the highest proportion of cases among all participants. This was despite the fact that schools were shut. Experts say schools should first be reopened in areas with low infection rates and once a success rate is determined, high-infection areas can follow the same. Other experts say the unilateral decision from the Centre is inappropriate and local authorities should instead be empowered to take the decision depending on regional circumstances. A public health expert, meanwhile, has totally opposed the move pointing at high malnourishment among children leading to low immunity. Read more here

Chhattisgarh’s Anganwadis: In Chhattisgarh Anganwadis have shut down and children from remote parts of the state are left without a crucial part of learning. Anganwadi workers, however, are performing a new task: teaching ‘lockdown parenting’ to families across the state’s districts. These workers are armed with mobile phones with audio messages meant for childrens’ families. The audio messages are a part of a statewide campaign to train parents on their role amid the climate of distress and economic uncertainty. In the naxal-effected districts, however, the workers had to rely more on personalised interaction than on technology to get the message across. Another advantage the Anganwadi workers have given the state is the fact that they communicate in local dialects. They now report that thanks to the campaign, parents in remote Chhattisgarh have begun to understand the needs of their children better. Read more here

No work, no play: A Bengaluru pre-school chain founder says only 6 of his 25 playschools are now open. Another such founder in Delhi has shifted gears entirely and is now working on a grocery store chain. The pre-school model had filled the vacuum for working parents who couldn’t take care of the childrens’ needs. The pandemic seems to have hit this segment of schooling pretty hard. Social media is now abound with owners offering to sell-off their playschool merchandise or offering a complete takeover at slashed prices. However, there would be implications of this on children and parents as well, and not just on businesses. Early childhood education programmes are essential parts of learning, say experts. The closure of playschools will mean additional burden on working women of the families. Besides, the sector itself is run pre-dominantly by women. Read more here

Business Standard is now on Telegram.
For insightful reports and views on business, markets, politics and other issues, subscribe to our official Telegram channel