As the COVID cases across India have seen an incline, Andaman Islands as well are not left behind. The island has seen a steep increase in the number of COVID cases. While I am writing this post the total confirmed cases at the islands stand at 221 Positive Cases of which 163 have recovered and 57 are active with NO casualty reported yet.
The Andaman and Nicobar Islands went into lockdown from 16th March 2020 a little early than All India lockdown which started from 21st March 2020. All tourism-related activities were suspended and a state of complete lockdown started for the safety of everyone.
Lockdown in one way is a good mean to curtail the spread of the virus, and is a popular practice across the world wherever the chance of spread is on a higher side. However, the downside of this includes a hit on the economic activities and more so for people down the ladder who does not have much savings with various other commitment to family, rent, loans, etc. The Government though has come with various reforms to ease the pain for people across various levels which as well includes the extension of the loan moratorium period to 6 months until August 31, 2020.
However, the question still remains whether the stimulus is enough for us to pass through the tide? The tide is again a conditional aspect where people who are backed up with decent savings, family support and job security will not have a big hit. However, people whose jobs are gone with not much savings and many other commitments will go through a very tough time. This varies from people to people and even a stimulus may not be of much help for many.
Where does the people at the islands stand during this pandemic?
The major sector after the government sector where people are employed in the islands is tourism. With tourism taking a major hit many people in the islands are left unemployed. To add to this, not many sectors are prevalent in the islands that can support job opportunities.
So the question remains what can be done or what is been done for people who are vulnerable during the pandemic? What should be the next plan of action for places such as Andaman who are deeply dependent on tourism-related activities and how the future should look like?
To answer this the first and foremost thing that needs to be sorted out is the INTERNET issue. The internet in Andaman is pretty bad. It’s like waiting for a good 10 – 15 minutes or even more just to load a YouTube video. Can you just imagine the amount of knowledge its there on the web and the people of the islands getting deprived of such an essential service? Efforts are in progress to improve the connectivity, however, the results are not that great.
With this 1 step, many people in the islands will be benefited and the time at hand can be channelized in a positive direction.
However, just bringing the Internet will still not solve the issue of bread at home so there should be another way out of the situation.
Local tourism could be one option were people in the islands themselves start exploring the islands. However, this may not be self-sufficient and many other schemes have to be added.
The Government along with the current employment opportunities should open up channels where the islands itself can become #AatmaNirbhar and employ people on a contractual/permanent basis to execute the projects.
Educational programs to empower people to explore other opportunities apart from tourism should be carried. People need to be made aware of various opportunities outside tourism.
If the time at hand can be used in a positive direction, this will help a lot of people to come out of their current situation.
Various jobs are coming up at the Andaman government website which can be referred at https://www.andaman.gov.in/vacancy_all . However, this is not enough.
One good initiative was recently taken up by The National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD)
NABARD has launched development projects in Andaman & Nicobar Islands worth Rs. 44 lakhs.
These projects aim at strengthening the concept of Atmanirbhar Bharat through rural entrepreneurship. The projects by NABARD will include the formation and development of Self-Help Groups, SHG.
In order to make Atmanirbhar Bharat a reality, the development bank has also been providing a platform for the sales of local products by financing the Rural Haats in Gram Panchayat.
NABARD’s projects in A&N Islands: Key Highlights
• Under the development projects launched by NABARD in Andaman & Nicobar Islands, skill development of Self- Help Group members will be taken up to promote rural entrepreneurship at the micro-level.
• The bank will conduct 385 village-level programmes and will provide training to the leaders of the newly formed SHG with the sum of more than Rs. 10 lakh.
• In Little Andaman, women attached to SHG’s will be Bamboo Handicraft making and Mushroom cultivation.
• A 4-month long training programme for the tour and travel agents in Swaraj Deep has also been listed in the schedule.
• A yearly Micro-Entrepreneurship Development Programme will also be carried out for 150 members of SHG’s in Mayabunder in Middle Andaman.
NABARD’s additional projects in Andaman & Nicobar:
The development bank has also tied up with the Centre of Agriculture Research Institute (CARI) for conducting the agricultural programmes with an amount of Rs. 20 lakh.
Additionally, in order to provide a platform for sales of the local products, the bank has also been financing Rural Haats in Gram Panchayats. For this, total Rs. 7.6 lakhs have been released to establish one such Haat in Namunaghar Panchayat of South Andaman.
Many such initiatives from the Government will surely help people at the islands. The shortage of funds is throughout and will remain, however, empowerment can take people a long way through.
Efforts can be made to create a parallel sector that can generate employment for many people in the islands. Sectors such as Agriculture, Fish farming, Spices, Coconut, Beetle nut, Seaweed and many other sectors can be aggressively looked at to empower and to employ people. A sector as good as tourism is a must for the islands to become Aatma Nirbhar.
Consumer demands in the islands are met through imports which is rightly so. We now need to look closely where the imports of certain products can be minimized and in turn, these products can be produced locally to meet the demands.
COVID today has exposed a big vulnerability of society and how fragile the entire ecosystem is. This pandemic for sure has given a jolt to our thoughts through which we usually took our decisions. Though with time COVID will be forgotten, however, the lessons learned should be kept in mind and actions should be taken for all of us to be prepared and for the future generations to be prepared.