COVID-19 update

Haryana: Hotspot for neighbours

Print edition : July 31, 2020

A shop in Gurugram being spruced up on June 30. The government allowed shopping malls in Gurgaon and Faridabad to reopen from July 1. Photo: PTI

Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar, in white PPE, visiting COVID-19 patients at a hospital in Sonepat on July 4. Photo: PTI

At a temple in Gurugram on July 6. Photo: PTI

At Madan Puri Road in Gurugram, after the district administration sealed many areas where cases are surging, on July 1. Photo: PTI

Even as the State grapples with an exponential growth in the number of cases in recent weeks, the government is desperate to restart industrial activity.

HARYANA’S share in the national COVID-19 caseload has been minimal, but its contribution to the sharp spikes in and around the National Capital Region in the last one month has been a cause for concern.

Until June 6, the State had reported only 3,952 confirmed cases. This figure zoomed to 17,999 as of July 7, according to data from National Health Mission, Haryana. On July 6, 499 fresh cases were added, the highest single-day spike in the State since the beginning of the pandemic.

A sharp rise in infections was seen in the later part of June. An analysis of the data for June showed that until June 12, less than 100 cases were being reported on a daily basis. From the second week onwards, however, this climbed to almost 200.

The number of cases per day jumped to 300 quickly and by the first week of July, Haryana was reporting close to 500 cases each day. The average growth rate of cases for the State in this period was higher than the national average and greater than that of nearby States such as Punjab, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh.

The number of confirmed cases per million in Haryana on July 6 was 610.49, higher than the all-India average of 540.16. However, the State reported a significantly higher rate of recovery than the all-India average, with around 75.81 per cent per cent of all confirmed cases having recovered from the infection as of July 7. As a result, as of July 7 there were only 4,075 active cases under supervision.

As per the latest available figures, a total of 279 persons had succumbed to COVID-19 related complications in Haryana. This is a low figure when compared with the casualties in neighbouring Delhi.

However, according to the State Health Bulletin, not everyone who died had co-morbidities. Of the 279 casualties, only 166 persons had co-morbidities. This highlights the fact that persons without co-morbidities are also vulnerable to succumbing to the COVID-19 infection.

Haryana had tested a total of 3,23,491 persons as per data available on July 7. The testing rate per million is comparable to Punjab and Rajasthan but significantly lower than Delhi. However, the number of confirmed cases per million in Punjab and Rajasthan is less than half of Haryana’s.

Haryana has probably not tested enough and the number of confirmed cases could actually be significantly higher if testing were to be expanded.

Worst-affected districts

Not all parts of the State are equally affected, however. The top five districts in COVID-19 caseload, Gurugram, Faridabad, Sonepat, Rewari and Rohtak, accounted for about 70 per cent of the State’s total caseload as of July 7.

Among these districts, Gurugram (6,183), Faridabad (4,770) and Sonepat (1,577) accounted for a lion’s share of the total number of positive cases in the State.

Gurugram had reported only 1,692 confirmed cases in the first week of June.

The rise in the number of confirmed cases was sharper in Faridabad, where, until June 6, only 620 cases had been reported. A month later, as of July 7, this number had increased sevenfold.

On June 1, a total of 14 deaths were reported in these five districts, but this went up to 197 by the end of the month.

In five other districts, the number of confirmed cases was between 100 and 250, and in 14 other districts, the number of cases was less than 100.

The spike has been concentrated in the top five districts, although reports of the emergence of fresh cases from districts such Karnal, Palwal, Kaithal and Nuh have been worrisome. In fact, Nuh district reported its first COVID-19 death recently.

The spike in cases almost two and a half months after the nationwide lockdown came into force can partly be attributed to the opening up of public spaces, including offices and religious spaces.

The Centre’s decision to go in for Unlock 2.0 might not work for States such as Haryana if the epidemic continues to steadily grow, especially in the industrial belts that employ a large number of migrant workers.

Labour issues

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government led by Manohar Lal Khattar in the State is desperate to restart industrial activity. The acute labour shortage caused by the exodus of migrant workers has affecting most industrial sectors. The government is trying to fill the gap by reserving jobs for local residents.

On July 6, the State Cabinet approved in principle the draft of an ordinance aimed at reserving 75 per cent of jobs in the private sector for local residents.

The ordinance envisages creation of industries in the private sector, which will employ more than 10 persons at a wage not exceeding Rs.50,000 a worker. The exact role of the government in facilitating the setting up of these industries and deciding the salary limit is not clear.

The State government also gave the nod for exempting new factories from labour laws such as the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947, and the Factories Act, 1948, for three years.

“The government has also asked for a ‘friendly atmosphere’ to prevail in factories. We wonder who the government is addressing by making this kind of an appeal. We do not agree with this approach as it is anti-worker,” said Jai Bhagwan, general secretary of the State unit of the Centre of Indian Trade Unions.

It remains to be seen if these moves will help meet industry’s labour demands, especially since dilution of labour laws has already become a controversial issue among workers.

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