New Delhi: The Narendra Modi government has asked colleges and universities across India to study the impact of Covid-19 on villages and rural populations in the country, and how it dealt with H1N1 virus or the Spanish Flu pandemic in 1918.
In a letter addressed to all colleges and universities on 12 June, the University Grants Commission (UGC) said, “As we fight this pandemic, we require greater cooperation, understanding and adaptability to the situation. Importantly, there is a pressing need to sensitively analyse the impact of pandemic as well as the role played by communities in agrarian part of this community,” the letter read.
The letter asked vice chancellors of universities and principals of colleges to study Covid in five-six of their adopted villages or in villages near their institutions.
Each study needs to focus on – awareness levels in the village regarding Covid-19, how the village tackled the challenges posed by the virus, and the best strategies adopted.
In addition, the UGC has also asked institutions to study the impact of the 1918 Spanish Flu and how India dealt with it at the time. “What measures India took to boost the economy after 1918 pandemic” has to be a part of the study.
The 1918 Spanish Flu began in Europe towards the end of World War 1. Like Covid-19, it was also a respiratory disease and spread in a similar manner as Covid has.
The institutes have been asked to commission a dedicated research team that undertakes the study. The submission has to be made by 30 June.
According to the UGC letter, the current focus in the fight against Covid is to contain the spread and avoid further escalation of infection.
“However, the pivotal task in this fight has also been protecting the village community which hosts millions of inhabitants in lakhs of villages across the nation,” the letter read.
According to studies by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), India’s apex medical body, the rural population is less likely to be exposed to the risk of infection.
“The ICMR has calculated that compared to rural areas, the risk of spread was 1.09 times higher in urban areas and 1.89 times higher in urban slums. The infection fatality rate is very low at 0.08 per cent,” ICMR director general Dr Balram Bhargava said at a press conference last week.