pandemic-and-the-city

Context: The recent pandemic has exposed the vulnerabilities of cities, especially the smaller towns.

Situation in Cities:

  • The health systems in megacities like Delhi and Mumbai appear to have been collapsed by the rising cases of COVID-19 patients coupled with shortage of beds and staff for them.
  • The highly congested cities are finding it difficult to maintain good hygiene and social distancing especially in slum regions.
  • The situation is way grim than it appears because apart from risk of pandemic spread, these regions are also lacking in basic services like safe water and sanitation.
  • The smaller towns (Population between 20000 and 1 lakh) are facing the maximum stress -
    • Less development happened in them owing to lesser contribution received under flagship scheme like Swachh Bharat Abhiyan which allocated 7 times more budget for rural areas
    • Similarly schemes like Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT) and the Smart Cities Mission focus on Class I cities (having population greater than 1 lakh).
    • The migrant from big cities are going back to these towns which now need to provide them with basic facilities as well as livelihood with a dearth of funds
    • They also don’t have any entitlement based scheme like MGNREGA which gives assured employment for 100 days in rural areas.

Conclusion:

  • In contrast to the imagination of the city as a hub of social and economic activity, it is now perceived as the centre of disease and distress.
  • Oversimplified notions of the rural-urban binary have influenced policy formulation and created huge disparities in the allocation of public resources. 
  • The challenges of urban poverty and congestion cry for more attention, more government support. Further neglect will lead to grave health and environmental challenges.

MGNREGA:

  • Objectives of the scheme:
    • Generation of paid rural employment of not less than 100 days for each worker who volunteers for unskilled labour
    • Ensuring social inclusion by strengthening livelihood and 
    • Creation of durable assets in rural areas such as wells, ponds, roads and canals etc.
  • The Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, earlier known as the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act was passed on 7th September 2005 to augment employment generation and social security in India.
  • It gives a significant amount of control to the Gram Panchayats for managing public works, strengthening Panchayati Raj Institutions.
  • Gram Sabhas are free to accept or reject recommendations from Intermediate and District Panchayats.
  • Every rural household has the right to register under MGNREGA.
  • The work shall be provided within 5 kms jurisdiction from the village
  • If the work provided is beyond 5 Kms, the job seekers shall be given 10% of the minimum wages as additional amount
  • Equal payment for men and women
  • Wages to be paid within a fortnight (15 days)
  • 1/3 beneficiaries should be women
  • Work site facilities such as creche, drinking water and shade have to be provided.

Source:

https://indianexpress.com/article/opinion/columns/coronavirus-covid-19-pandemic-india-urban-cities-6520574/

Image Source: Indian Express